Ian Woosnam will look to extend his lead at the top of the Order of Merit when the European Seniors Tour visits Russia for the first time for the inaugural Russian Seniors Open this week.
The Welshman seized the top spot for the first time in his rookie Seniors Tour season after edging past Germany’s Bernhard Langer courtesy of his tied ninth finish at the Irish Seniors Open in association with Failte Ireland and Allied Irish Bank.
Woosnam is currently just €45 ahead of Langer in the Order of Merit, with €138,586 compared to €138,541, but he could put some distance between them pair with a high finish at Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club, north of Moscow.
The 2006 Ryder Cup winning Captain is chasing his second Seniors Tour win after clinching his maiden title at the Parkridge Polish Seniors Championship at the start of June.
He followed that victory by finishing runner-up behind Peter Mitchell in his first Seniors Tour tournament in Britain, the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open, and is looking to continue his seamless start to the Seniors Tour this week.
Woosnam is joined in one of the strongest golf fields ever to compete in Russia by another Ryder Cup winning Captain, Sam Torrance. The Scot, who has been battling a long-standing wrist injury which forced him to withdraw from the Jersey Seniors Classic after round one, is approaching his best form once again after an encouraging tied ninth finish in Ireland.
Spain’s Juan Quiros will also head to Russia in confident mood after lifting the silverware at Ballyliffin Golf Club following an engaging battle with home favourite Des Smyth.
Quiros pipped Smyth on the final hole after producing a stunning 132 yards approach shot to set up his winning birdie and secure his third Seniors Tour title in as many years.
The Seniors Tours all time leading money winner Carl Mason of England and Italian Ryder Cup player Costantino Rocca, last year’s top two on the Order of Merit, will also tee up at Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club hoping to kick-start their respective seasons with a win.
It is surely only a matter of time before England’s Gordon J Brand records his first victory of 2008 after three consecutive top four finishes, as he takes his place in the field competing for a prize fund of US$750,000.
The Russian Seniors Open brings to 27 the number of countries to have hosted European Seniors Tour competition since the Tour was founded in 1992.
The European Challenge Tour was the first to visit the country in 1996 to promote The Russian Open Golf Championship, which then became a full European Tour event in 2006.
Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club, which is situated on the picturesque shores of the Pestovskoye Reservoir, 28 kilometres north of Moscow, has a three year agreement to stage the Russian Seniors Open.