England’s Carl Mason captured his 15th title in four years on the European Seniors Tour in front of huge galleries at the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open on Sunday.
Mason, four strokes behind after eight holes of his final round, produced four birdies down the testing back nine at Conwy (Caernarvonshire) Golf Club to win by two strokes from overnight leader Juan Quiros of Spain and Ross Drummond of Scotland.
The Oxfordshire golfer’s closing round of four under par 68 gave him a winning 54 hole total of six under par 210 and a healthy winner’s cheque of €110,358.
“This is the second biggest event on the European Seniors Tour and I needed to win this week if I am to challenge for a third Order of Merit title this season,” said Mason, who moved to within €15,713 of current Number One Eduardo Romero with this victory, his second in the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open after the 2005 success at Royal St David’s Golf Club.
Drummond was bitterly disappointed after missing out on his maiden Seniors title. The Scot’s challenge ended with a three-putt bogey at the 17th for a round of 69, which left him on four under par 212.
“I saw that Mason had birdied the 16th so I had to give my first putt from 25 feet a go. I ran it three and half feet past and missed the return. It was a hugely disappointing way to finish as I had played well,” he said.
Quiros, who had matched the course record with a brilliant 64 on Saturday, could not produce similar heroics and closed in 73 to finish alongside Drummond on four under par. Both collected cheques for €62,536 and Quiros is now up to third on the Order of Merit.
Fourth place on three under par was shared by Italy’s Costantino Rocca (72) and Ireland’s Des Smyth, who stormed through the field with a best-of-the-day five under par 67.
It was Smyth’s best result on the European Seniors Tour since winning in Bahrain at the end of 2005 and came as a timely boost for the Drogheda golfer, who arrived from America struggling for form.
“I was in the bunch starting out this morning and all I wanted was a low round. I have been short of sub-70 rounds in recent times as my form hasn’t been good, so I am very happy with five under par.
“The finishing holes on this course are extremely nervy - a slight push or a pull and it’s double-bogey - so I was pleased to keep a bogey off my card. I played pretty solid and obviously my confidence is going to be better for this,” he commented.
The final day had been a fascinating affair enlivened by great public support and a terrific venue.
Quiros looked in control for much of the afternoon but the closing stretch at Conwy is treacherous, and in the end it was arguably its most difficult hole – the 430 yard par four 16th - that decided the outcome of the title.
It was here that Mason snatched a surprise birdie – one of only four all day at the 16th – when he holed a putt from 35 feet to move one clear of Drummond, Quiros and Rocca.
Rocca then missed his par putt to drop out of the equation and Drummond and Quiros would both go on to bogey the 17th, as Mason parred his way home for a two stroke victory.
“It looked as though a play-off was in the air but anything can happen over those last three holes here. Fortunately I played them in one under and that was enough to break away,” he said.
“At 16 all I was doing was hoping and praying to make four. I hit four iron off the tee and a wonderful four iron onto the green. The putt just capped it.”
Quiros, meanwhile, was left to rue two missed putts at the 12th and 13th, but it was a measure of the man’s character that he was still able to share a joke with the large galleries surrounding the 18th green. In fact, before putting out Quiros walked over and presented a delighted mother with a golf ball (the one he had used for the 64) as a present for her baby.
It was a fitting end.