Bob Charles can add another notable achievement to his distinguished career by becoming the oldest winner in golf history should he maintain his fine recent form and capture the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open, which gets underway on Friday at the stunning Golf Club Bad Ragaz, nestled amid the south west Alps of Switzerland.
The 71 year old, a winner of over 75 titles worldwide since turning professional in 1960, has respectively finished tied 21st , tied 34th and second in his last three European Seniors Tour events – the Open de France Senoir de Divonne, The Senior Open Championship at Muirfield and Wentworth Senior Masters.
Most recently, at the Wentworth Senior Masters, Charles bettered his age by a stroke with his 70 on the final day, having matched his years with a brace of 71s for the first 36 holes, to finish four under par and register his best result since 2005, when he was runner up at the Ryder Cup Wales Senior Open.
It means the New Zealander has arrived in the Swiss Alps full of confidence – and should he win on Sunday after completing the 54-hole event, he would be 71 and 151 days, making him the oldest winner in European Seniors Tour history.
Charles would beat the record of England’s Neil Coles, who was 67 and 276 days at the 2002 Lawrence Batley Seniors Open, and would also be the oldest player to win an official Seniors Tour event in the world.
It is a goal the 1963 Open Champion is keen to realise. He said: “I’ve been playing well, swinging nicely and hitting good shots, so why shouldn’t I feel I can win again? I still have the desire to compete and perform the best I can.
“Tournaments like I had at Wentworth inspire me so much, to not hang up the clubs and keep competing. It was great to finish second and to come back in 32 on the final back nine was very pleasing – it goes to show there’s still a little spark of life in the old boy!
“We’ve been playing some long, tough courses in Muirfield and the Edinburgh Course. They’re over 7,000 yards and it’s been a relentless, hard couple of weeks. I made a career playing courses 6,600-700 yards in length, so I’m glad we’re at a course in Bad Ragaz that’s only 6,100-200 yards. We’re all in need of it, I think, and I’m looking forward to it. We’ll have to see on Sunday if I’m in with a chance.”
However, Charles will be challenged in his pursuit of a history making victory by Spain’s defending champion, Juan Quiros, who says he is determined to hold onto the title he won in 2006 on only his seventh seniors start.
At least Quiros will not have the problem he had last weekend, when, as he checked out of the Runnymede Hotel, near Wentworth, he was confused with Argentina’s Eduardo Romero by the receptionist and presented with the wrong bill.
There is no danger of that happening in Switzerland, as Romero is taking a break after saying on Sunday, after his bid to win a third consecutive Wentworth Senior Masters was ended by Ireland’s Des Smyth, that he “was tired and needed a rest” after a draining recent run of tournaments.
It means the battle to get closer to overhauling Romero, who leads the Order of Merit with €241,280 from four events, will be contested by the next four players in the top five – England’s Carl Mason (€187,879), Australia’s Stewart Ginn (183,099), Quiros (€178,703) and Italy’s Costantino Rocca (€125,164).
Rocca, paying his first visit to Bad Ragaz, enthused: “It is a beautiful course – in perfect condition. The rain we had on Wednesday night has softened it up, so I think there will be plenty of birdies and good scores. I hope I will be among them.”
Meanwhile, Australian Terry Gale, tournament winner in 2005, is another hoping to do well and finish inside the top two, for if he does, he can achieve a unique feat.
“I’m chasing passing the million Euros – but I don’t know if it will beat me or I’ll beat it. We’ll just have to see what happens this week,” said Gale, who has accumulated €985,550 from his 11 years on the European Seniors Tour.
As well as Gale, England’s Nick Job and Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan could also pass that million Euros milestone if they are successful and win in Switzerland.
Job, who has earned €975,490 in his eight years on Tour, was tied third last year at Bad Ragaz and is seeking his fourth senior title, while O’Sullivan, in his tenth season on tour after turning professional in 1997, is chasing a seventh victory to add to his career haul of €977,248.
|T2||RUSSELL, David J||ENG||18||-10|