Defending champion Ian Woosnam is hoping for a new dawn in the Land of the Rising Sun as the former World Number One seeks to end 2010 with a flourish in the Handa Cup Senior Masters.
The 1990 Masters Champion has endured a frustrating year by his own high standard, finishing 28th on the European Senior Tour Order of Merit, but he is hopeful a return to form could be on the horizon when the Senior Tour makes its inaugural visit to Japan.
Welshman Woosnam, the 2006 Ryder Cup Captain, captured his last title in this event 12 months ago and he is targeting his first successful defence as a senior golfer at Ohmurasaki Golf Club, in Saitama.
The lucrative tournament is part of the European Senior Tour Schedule for the first time and completes an ISPS Handa sponsored double-header to launch the 2011 season, following the Handa Australian Senior Open last week.
With a prize fund of JPY120,000,000 (approx €1million) on offer, Woosnam is hoping to rediscover the winning habit as he aims to regain the John Jacobs Trophy he captured for winning the Senior Tour Order of Merit in 2008.
“It’s a different course and hopefully we will have better weather but I’d like the result to be the same,” said Woosnam. “I’ve not been playing well this year but I’ve worked hard in recent weeks and there are some signs of it coming together. I think it’s great that this Japanese event is part of the Senior Tour this year.
“As we did on The European Tour a few years ago, it’s good for the Senior Tour to have these co-sanctioned events in different place around the world. I love Japan. I really like Japanese food and the people are so gracious.”
Woosnam, who made a solid start to the 2011 season with a share of 12th place in the Handa Australian Senior Open, is joined by 30 of the leading Senior Tour players in the event, which is co-sanctioned with the Japan PGA Senior Tour.
Sam Torrance, Europe’s 2002 Ryder Cup Captain, continues his quest to regain the John Jacobs Trophy he won in 2009, alongside fellow Scot Sandy Lyle, the two-time Major Champion who is still searching for his maiden Senior Tour title.
Lyle came close to making that breakthrough at the Royal Perth Golf Club last week, finishing second to Australia’s Peter Senior.
The Scot will now look to overtake Senior on the 2011 Order of Merit with a strong title challenge in Japan.
There are eight winners from the 2010 Senior Tour season in the field: Marc Farry, Barry Lane, Bill Longmuir, David J Russell, George Ryall, Des Smyth, Kevin Spurgeon and Gary Wolstenholme.
One notable absentee in Japan this week will be Europe’s most prolific Major Champion, Sir Nick Faldo. The Englishman has been forced to withdraw from the event after a recurrence of the tendonitis that forced him to withdraw from the Senior Open Championship earlier this season.
ISPS has an ongoing relationship with Faldo and his golf development programme, the Faldo Series Asia. Earlier in 2010 ISPS signed a three year agreement with the Faldo Series Asia to help support golf at the grassroots level and nurture the potential stars of the future.
“I am really disappointed that I am unable to attend the Handa Cup Senior Masters in Japan,” said Faldo. “I would like to thank Dr Handa for inviting me to this tournament and for his continued support of the Faldo Series Asia.”