Carl Mason will return to Switzerland this week hoping the invigorating Alpine air of the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open can breathe life into his European Seniors Tour season, just as it did 12 months ago.
The 55 year old captured the title in impressive fashion last August, a victory which proved to be a catalyst for the Englishman to produce a stunning run to the end of the season. Following his six shot Swiss success, Mason won on three further occasions to romp to his third Order of Merit title, picking up the John Jacobs Trophy with record winnings of €412,376.
This year, however, Mason has yet to grace the winners’ circle and indeed only two top ten finishes from his eight starts thus far, sees him go into the tournament in the unfamiliar position of being outside the top 30 on the Order of Merit.
But if there is one place guaranteed to set the competitive juices flowing for the 19 time winner on the European Seniors Tour circuit it is the stunning Golf Club Bad Ragaz, set against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps; a fact conceded by the man himself.
“The golf course is in a beautiful part of the world, on the outskirts of a lovely little town,” said Mason. “It’s not especially long, which does sometimes allow you to shoot low scores.
“But trees line most of the fairways, so accuracy off the tee is a must. I’m looking forward to getting back there – it’s one of my favourite events on the whole Schedule.”
Mason’s closest challengers of last year; Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti, England’s David J Russell and Italy’s Costantino Rocca, will join Mason in Switzerland, all hoping to go one better than last year and pick up the lion’s share of the record prize fund of €260,000 – an increase of €50,000 on the 2007 figure.
Carbonetti in particular has an impressive record at the tree-lined 6,183 yards, par 70 course, having triumphed there in 2003 and 2004. His victory in 2003 was a landmark event, in that it saw Carbonetti become the first Argentine to win on the European Seniors Tour.
Indeed, over the years Golf Club Bad Ragaz has established itself as a popular destination for firsts; in 2006, it was the venue for Juan Quiros’ maiden Seniors Tour title. On only his seventh start, the Spaniard closed with a final day 65 for a 14 under par winning total of 196.
Quiros will come into the event this year in good heart having finished in the top 30 in last week’s US Senior Open at The Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs, while Rocca also completed all four rounds to finish in a tie for 47th.
This year’s visit to Golf Club Bad Ragaz will be the 12th since the inaugural event there in 1997. In total, nine players from seven different countries have taken the title, giving the tournament a truly international feel.