The European Senior Tour’s ‘eastern swing’ continues this week with the inaugural ISPS Handa Senior World Championship presented by Mission Hills China, with Sandy Lyle looking to extend his advantage at the top of the Order of Merit.
The two-time Major Champion is enjoying his best spell since joining the Senior Tour in 2008, posting consecutive top ten finishes in Australia (runner up) and Japan (tied fifth) before a share of 18th position in last week’s Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum took his lead at the Order of Merit summit to €14,903.
Lyle is an ambassador for title sponsor alongside former Ryder Cup Captain Sam Torrance and fellow Major Champions Wayne Grady and Ian Woosnam, who will also tee it up over the World Cup Course at Mission Hills Resort, which hosted the Omega Mission Hills World Cup from 2007-2009.
Welshman Woosnam and Australian Grady, of course, are also former World Cup winners, in 1987 and 1989 respectively, while other players to in the field to triumph on that stage are Peter Fowler, who partnered Grady, and Spaniard Antonio Garrido, Manuel Piñero and José Rivero.
Woosnam and Torrance, the Order of Merit winners in 2008 and 2009, are both looking to ignite their seasons after finishing in a share of 38th and 18th respectively last week in Brunei.
Looking to continue his impressive Senior Tour career in the Far East is Boonchu Ruangkit, who won in both Brunei and his native Thailand last year en route to winning the Order of Merit.
Chris Williams, who finished runner up to Ruangkit in last year’s Order of Merit, will be looking to continue his challenge for the top honour this year after capturing his maiden Senior Tour title in Brunei last week.
Williams carded a superb closing round 64 to finish one stroke clear of Thailand’s Sang-ho Choi and move up to third on the Order of Merit, behind Lyle and Australian Peter Senior.
Making his Senior Tour debut in the US$350,000 tournament is former European Tour winner Andrew Sherborne. The Englishman, who won the Madrid Open in 1991 and the Spanish Open the following year, turns 50 on Friday, the first day of the tournament.
Despite being away from full time Tour life for more than seven years, Sherborne could become the youngest Senior Tour winner should he triumph in China but more realistically he will be looking to follow the recent examples of Barry Lane, Roger Chapman and Gary Wolstenholme, who all launched their Senior Tour careers with top five finishes.
He becomes the third Bristol-based player on the Senior Tour, following Gordon Brand Jnr and George Ryall, both of whom captured their maiden titles last season.
"I am really looking forward to the new season as I will meet and play with some of my pals from the old days,” said Sherborne. “It will also give me the chance to play more competitive tournament golf again rather than pro-ams."
ISPS Handa Senior World Championship presented by Mission Hills China is the Senior Tour’s first foray into China. It follows previous Far East trips to Brunei, China and Japan so far this season, with events having also been played in Australia and Mauritius, ahead of the first event on European soil in June, with another ISPS sponsored tournament, the ISPS Handa Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum, in England.