Boonchu Ruangkit makes a sentimental return to the course which launched his all-conquering 2010 season when he defends his title in this week’s Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum.
The 54 year old Thai defeated Frankie Minoza of the Philippines in a play-off at the Empire Hotel and Country Club 12 months ago to claim his maiden European Senior Tour victory and spark a season to remember.
Ruangkit went on to win his next two events – in Thailand and South Africa – before adding a fourth title in the Benahavis Senior Masters to capture the Senior Tour Order of Merit, succeeding former Ryder Cup Captain Sam Torrance as winner of the John Jacobs Trophy.
As the 2011 European Senior Tour campaign resumes following a 12 week sabbatical, Ruangkit will be looking to build on his strong start to the season so far, having opened with a share of fifth place in the Handa Cup Senior Masters in Japan and a share of ninth place in the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open.
He is fourth on the Order of Merit, €23,882 behind current leader Sandy Lyle who will be hoping to build on his promising start to the 2011 campaign.
The two-time Major Champion, who celebrated his 53rd birthday last week, finished runner up in the Handa Australian Senior Open and tied fifth in the Handa Cup Senior Masters, and he will take confidence from his share of sixth place at the Empire Hotel and Country Club in the inaugural tournament in 2009.
Winner on that occasion was Mike Cunning, who captured the title on his Senior Tour debut. The American added a second victory to his CV by winning the OKI Castellón Senior Tour Championship last November and has a rich history of success in Asia, having won the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 1997.
Also heading to Brunei are former Ryder Cup Captains Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam, who will both be hoping to wrest the Order of Merit crown away from Ruangkit this year, having won the John Jacobs Trophy in 2009 and 2008 respectively.
Woosnam was tied fifth in the Handa Cup Senior Masters, producing a marvellous closing round 63 which suggests he could be close to returning to his best form.
Another former Order of Merit winner with title aspirations this week is Carl Mason, who would become the sole most prolific Senior Tour winner if he captures his 24th victory, breaking the record of 23 he currently shares with Tommy Horton.