England’s Carl Mason will start the defence of his Order of Merit title with a visit to the newest event on the European Seniors Tour, the inaugural Azores Senior Open, at Batalha Golf Course.
The Azores, formed of nine Atlantic Ocean islands, joins Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic and India as one of five new destinations added this year to an ever-expanding Schedule.
Mason, the current holder of the John Jacobs Trophy, has welcomed the addition of the five new tournaments, which he believes will increase the global appeal of seniors golf.
He said: “The Seniors Tour has changed beyond all recognition since I started playing in 2003. I’m really excited about playing in all these new places – we’ll certainly be racking up some air miles this year. But it can only be a good thing for the seniors game.
“I’ve never been to the Azores before, but I’ve heard great things about the place and the condition of the course. It’s right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, so the wind will probably be a big factor. Whoever deals best with the conditions might determine who wins the tournament.”
Mason, who topped the Order of Merit last year with record earnings of €412,376, currently trails Bill Longmuir by €28,435 after the Scot won the season-opening DGM Barbados Open.
But after putting in some practice on two recent trips to The Fox Club in Florida, the club he is attached to, Mason is confident of getting his sixth Seniors Tour season off to the best possible start by claiming a large share of the €325,000 prize fund on offer at the Azores Senior Open.
The 54 year old, who with three Order of Merit titles to his name trails only five-time winner Tommy Horton, said: “It’s important to get off to a good start, because I don’t want to fall too far behind in the Rankings. But I’ve been playing reasonably well, so I’m fairly confident. I was pretty pleased with my swing and my ball striking in America. Unfortunately, with the bad weather we’ve been having lately, I haven’t had too many chances to play since I’ve got back.
“But I’ve been working hard on my fitness in the gym, which is something I never really used to do. It means I get less tired at tournaments, and can cope better with the heat and humidity at places like India and, to a lesser extent, the Azores.”
The Batalha Golf Course is located on the island of Sao Miguel, the largest of the nine islands which form the Azores. The 6,925 yards, par 72 course, which is noted for its breathtaking sea views, is one of only three in the region.
Other confirmed entrants include Italy’s Costantino Rocca, runner-up behind Mason on last year’s Order of Merit, and Longmuir, who will be bidding for back-to-back victories after prevailing by three shots at Royal Westmoreland in Barbados.
The English duo of Bob Cameron and Nick Job, who finished second and third respectively behind Longmuir in Barbados, will also be teeing up at Batalha Golf Club.