Gordon J Brand returns to the scene of his epic play-off triumph over namesake Gordon Brand Jnr 12 months ago when he defends his De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship title at De Vere Slaley Hall this week.
In what became known as the ‘Battle of the Brands’, Gordon J eventually triumphed on the sixth extra hole after the pair had tied on four over par 292 in tough conditions over Slaley Hall’s Hunting Course.
That was his fourth Senior Tour victory and the former Ryder Cup player immediately captured his fifth, winning the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters the following week en route to finish second behind Ian Woosnam in the Order of Merit.
As with last year, Brand heads to the Northumberland resort in the North East of England not quite at the top of his game following his tied 19th place in the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open last week, although the 53 year old said his performance at Royal Porthcawl gave him cause for optimism.
“I played a bit better in Wales last week so I feel there’s half a chance of doing quite well again,” he said. “I just had the odd bad hole but that is bettering that having the odd bad round.
“Last year I hadn’t played great before going to Slaley Hall – I’d been steady a bit like this year. I’ve not done quite as well this year but well enough. I’ve shown some signs of form.
“I putted well last year to win and I’ve been having spells of putting well this year.
“It was a tough week last year at Slaley Hall because of the weather but hopefully that will be different. We can’t have two years in a row like that! It was a tough finish too.
“I think I played the course well. You have to hit the ball solidly there. It would be a dream to be able to go back and successfully defend.”
In-form Woosnam will hope to put behind him the disappointment of missing out on his home Senior Open title in Wales last week as he chases his second victory in June, following his win in the Irish Seniors Open in association with Fáilte Ireland and AIB Bank at the start of the month.
The former World Number One had been joint leader going into the final round of at Royal Porthcawl but had to settle for a share of third place behind winner Bertus Smit of South Africa.
That took the Welshman to the top of the Senior Tour Order of Merit and the 2006 Ryder Cup Captain can extend his margin over Smit, who leapfrogged 64 places to second, with another strong finish at Slaley Hall.
Woosnam will be looking to add the Senior PGA Championship to the PGA Championship he won on The European Tour in 1988 and 1997, which was his last strokeplay title before his maiden victory among the over 50s in last year’s Parkridge Polish Seniors Championship.
He said: “It would be lovely to win the PGA Seniors Championship – it’s the next best thing after a Major Championship. Hopefully I can play better than I did last year and hopefully the weather will be better. I’m looking forward to it.
“I’m going to get there early and have a couple of practice rounds. Last year was tough because of the weather but hopefully we’ll get decent weather and it will be a great week.”
Aside from Brand, other past PGA Senior Championship winners teeing it up at Slaley Hall will include Terry Gale (1996), Seiji Ebihara (2002), Bill Longmuir (2003), Carl Mason (2004, 2007) and Sam Torrance (2005, 2006).
The De Collection PGA Seniors Championship is the only 72 hole event on the Senior Tour schedule outside of the Major Championships and is the last to be played before next month’s Senior Open Championship
Inaugurated in 1957, the Championship is the longest running event on the Senior Tour schedule.
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