History will be made this week when the 2009 European Senior Tour season gets underway with the inaugural Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum.
Never, in its 17 year existence, has the European Senior Tour travelled so far east and an impressive field has assembled for the curtain-raiser to an exciting year which will is scheduled to feature a minimum of 17 tournaments in 11 different destinations.
Leading the way at The Empire Hotel and Country Club in Brunei are an illustrious trio of Scots; Ryder Cup winning Captains Sam Torrance and Bernard Gallacher, alongside double Major Championship winner Sandy Lyle.
Torrance will be hoping to carry forward his fine end of season form from 2008 and get his campaign off to a flying start as he seeks to depose Ian Woosnam as the Senior Tour Number One and reclaim the John Jacobs Trophy he won in 2005 and 2006.
The 2002 Ryder Cup winning Captain, who has struggled with a hand injury for the past two seasons, finished runner up in the Scottish Seniors Open before capturing his tenth Senior Tour title in the season-ending OKI Castellón Open España – Senior Tour Championship.
“I finished the season strongly and my hand was a lot better over the last month or so,” said Torrance. “That made a big difference. Obviously playing well at the end of the season is good, and my form was certainly better than at the beginning of the year.”
Lyle returns to the Senior Tour fold in search of his maiden victory, with his best finish so far coming in last year’s Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open where he led after the first round before finishing tied 11th.
The 1985 Open Champion and 1988 Masters Champion, who won 18 European Tour titles in all, will be hoping for a belated present after celebrating his 51st birthday on February 9. The same aspiration applies to Gallacher, who turned 60 on the same day, as he makes his first Senior Tour appearance since the Scottish Seniors Open in 2006 looking to add to his sole victory which came in The Mobile Cup in 2002.
Elsewhere the English challenge in Brunei will be spearheaded by Gordon J Brand. The former Ryder Cup player, a two time winner in 2008, will be keen to maintain the momentum that saw him end last season as runner up to Woosnam in the Order of Merit.
New to the Senior Tour this year is Australian Mike Harwood, a five time winner on The European Tour, who will make his debut in Brunei.Harwood, who at 6ft 4in will join Scotland’s Ross Drummond as the tallest player on the Senior Tour, won two of the biggest tournaments on The European Tour Schedule in 1990 – the PGA Championship and the Volvo Masters - and returns to the game after a break of more than ten years.
Scotland’s Bill Longmuir, winner of last season’s curtain raiser, the DGM Barbados Open, is also in the field for the US$400,000 event along with other winners from 2008; Australian Stewart Ginn, England’s Nick Job and Spain’s Juan Quiros.
The Jack Nicklaus designed course at The Empire Hotel & Country Club is built upon a stunning cliff top location and has hosted the Asian Tour’s Brunei Open in 2005 and 2006.