Carl Mason is aiming to become the richest golfer in European Seniors Tour history when he returns to Woburn Golf Club to defend his European Senior Masters title this week.
The Englishman, the current Seniors Tour Order of Merit Number One, can overtake his countryman Tommy Horton atop the European Seniors Tour Career Money List with victory over the Duke's Course.
Horton, the most successful player in Seniors Tour history with five Order of Merit victories, has amassed €1,509,454 since the beginning of his Seniors career in 1992.
Mason, winner of €1,472,123 in a five year period that has seen him win two Order of Merit titles, can pass Horton’s total by taking home the European Senior Masters’ first prize of €49,713 – providing Horton finishes outside of the top six come Sunday afternoon.
Alongside Horton, a highly competitive field, including Italy’s Costantino Rocca, Scotland’s Sam Torrance and four former champions – Argentina’s Luis Carbonetti (2004), Jamaica’s Delroy Cambridge (2002), England’s Mark James (2005) and Northern Ireland’s Paul Leonard (2003) – will be looking to deny Mason’s mission over the par 72, 6,986 yard Duke’s Course.
However, having seen his consecutive run of three Midas English Senior Open wins ended by Scotland’s Bill Longmuir at the St Mellion International Hotel, Golf and Country Club, Mason says he is determined to hold onto his European Senior Masters crown.
The 54 year old, recent winner of his 16th Seniors Tour title, the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open in Switzerland, said: “After a nice relaxing week off after a tough three days at St Mellion, going back to Woburn to play in the European Senior Masters is a nice event to look forward to.
“Anytime you return to a course where you’ve won in the past is enjoyable, because you have good memories to feed off. I was happy with the way I played at St Mellion in challenging conditions, and Bill played great to win, but I’m hoping the weather is going to be better for us all at Woburn.”
Mason overtook Argentina’s Eduardo Romero the top of the Order of Merit courtesy of his runner-up finish at The Midas English Seniors Open.
“My goal for the rest of the season is to win the Order of Merit,” said Mason, the John Jacobs Trophy winner in 2003 and 2004.
Some 11 months ago at Woburn Golf Club, Mason birdied two of the last three holes on the Duke’s Course to finish on a seven under par 209 winning 54 hole total to pip Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti by two strokes.
Afterwards, it was a tearful Mason who celebrated his success and received his trophy from the 15th Duke of Bedford, owner of the Bedford Estate where Woburn Golf Club is situated.
Mason recalled: “My win last year was very special. I was overwhelmed because it was my first win of 2006 and, throughout my career, I had always wanted to win at Woburn or Wentworth, one of the great courses. It meant so much to me that I achieved that on the Duke’s Course. It is such a beautiful course to play.”
Record crowds are expected once more in Buckinghamshire to witness the action and top the vast numbers attending in 2005, when Mark James edged out his great friend and rival, Sam Torrance, in front of thousands of spectators.
Having tied on a nine under par 207 total after 54 holes, the former European Ryder Cup Captains returned to the 18th hole to contest a sudden-death play-off, which James took courtesy of a birdie to claim his maiden European Seniors Tour title.
That made James a double victor at Woburn, for he previously won the British Masters 15 years earlier, in 1990, when his 18 under par 270 total secured a two stroke victory from Northern Ireland’s David Feherty. Mason was third, on 14 under par.
Golf was first introduced at Woburn by the late 14th Duke of Bedford in 1973, with the construction of the Duke’s and Duchess Courses on his estate, in 1976 and 1978 respectively.
Woburn Golf Club first hosted a professional tournament on The European Tour Schedule in 1979, when Australia’s Graham Marsh won the Dunlop British Masters over the Duke’s Course with a five under par 283, 72 hole total, to edge out Japan’s Isao Oaki and England’s Neil Coles by one stroke.
Business commitments in America have unfortunately prevented the 63 year old Marsh from making a playing return, as he had originally intended.
He said: “I am very disappointed, because Woburn is a course I love and I was looking forward to coming over. It was a proud moment in my career, to become the first professional to win at Woburn. I birdied the last to beat Isao and Neil.”
Woburn Golf Club duly staged a further 15 British Masters, until 2002, when England’s Justin Rose won, and has hosted six European Senior Masters since 2001.
Jason O’Malley, General Manager of Woburn Golf Club, is keen to see the latest event unfurl to further the club’s proud heritage.
He said: “Woburn has a rich and steeped history with tournament golf and we are delighted to welcome the Members of the European Seniors Tour back to the Duke’s Course. We look forward to an exciting week both on and off the golf course, and creating another chapter in Woburn’s wonderful tournament history.”
For ticket information on the European Senior Masters, please visit: www.europeantourtickets.com