Just five days after he captured his 16th European Seniors Tour title, Carl Mason is excited about the prospect of trying to win a record setting fourth consecutive Midas English Seniors Open.
Mason romped to victory at the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open in Switzerland last week, shooting a final round 65 to finish on 16 under par 194 – six strokes clear of his closest challengers Horacio Carbonetti of Argentina, Italy’s Costantino Rocca and England’s David J Russell.
As a result of that emphatic Swiss success, the 54 year old returns to the St Mellion International Hotel, Golf and Country Club – where he holds the course record, a 63 shot in 1995 at The Benson and Hedges International Open – seeking back to back wins and a 17th Seniors Tour title.
Mason said: “Winning in Switzerland was the perfect way to prepare for this event. I was really happy with the way I played. It felt great, and I do find it incredible I’ve won 16 times in four years on the Tour.
“I’m glad to be back at St Mellion. There is an added incentive and motivation, any time you have the chance to make history, so of course, I’m excited about going for a fourth English Open win. I just hope the weather will be kind to us, otherwise the course can be pretty brutal. We’ve had some tough conditions already this week – but it’s a course I love and it’s a fair test, so we’ll just have to see what happens when we get going.”
Mason won 12 months ago with a four under par, 212 total after rounds of 70-71-71 to beat Australia’s Stewart Ginn by a stroke. That made him the first man in European Seniors Tour history to win the same event three times, after he previously recorded wins in 2003, at Hillside Golf Club, in 2004, at Formby Hall Golf Club, and, after a year’s hiatus, in 2006.
One year on, many of his fellow competitors are unsure what the winning score will be – but they do agree it’s going to be a testing three days on the Nicklaus Course due to the number of variable factors that contribute towards the challenge presented by the 6,854 yard par 72 layout.
No more was that clearer than in the two Pro-Ams held on Wednesday and Thursday, when the players experienced all of the demands The Midas English Seniors Open will place upon them.
An inch of rain fell in 15 minutes on Wednesday to flood the course and force the players to come off for an hour’s delay. Naturally adding to its length and with casual water prevalent, Thursday’s conditions offered the added test of a swirling wind.
Talking about the two contrasts of each and how that affects his tournament outlook, Northern Ireland’s Jimmy Heggarty said: “It’s a tough course – one of the hardest we play all season – and my approach is to try to beat the course, not anyone else.
“It’s playing long, due to all the rain, there’s the blustery wind to contend with, as there always is here at this time of the year. So you need to be able to hit every shot in the bag, because you will be asked to hit every shot.
“Carl won with four under par last year, and I think a similar score will win this year. The good thing is the course is playing a lot fairer than last year, because it’s softer. It was very hard and bouncy last year.”
South Africa’s John Mashego, who shot a final round of 67 in 2006 to help him finish in a tie for tenth place, added: “I think that six under par will win. I do not think you will see players shooting 66’s, but I think there may be some 68s. That is a very good score on this course.
“I think there will be some 68s because it is softer. Last year, on the 18th, I hit my rescue wood into the green and because it was so hard and fast, the ball ran through to the back. This time, I can get it to stop on the green.”
Nevertheless, both players agreed they are looking forward to getting underway on Friday at the Crown Golf owned St Mellion International Hotel, Golf and Country Club, which hosts The Midas English Seniors Open for the second consecutive year, to try and end Mason’s dominance.
However, the 72 strong field also have an omen to overcome, for, in 2006, Mason won the European Senior Masters over the Duke’s Course at Woburn the week before he triumphed at St Mellion. Some 12 months on, Mason’s Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open win means he is poised to emulate that feat once more.