Bill Longmuir is hoping to overcome recurring putting demons and rediscover his touch on the greens when he defends his ISPS Handa Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum title this week.
Longmuir was at his vintage best on the Stapleford Park greens last year when he strolled to a magnificent seven stroke wire-to-wire victory, landing his eighth European Senior Tour title ahead of Thailand’s Boonchu Ruangkit and Englishman Roger Chapman.
Rounds of 64, 69 and 66 gave Longmuir an impressive 20 under par total of 199 - the second lowest to par in Senor Tour history – as the 57 year old enjoyed one of his finest weeks in eight seasons on the Senior Tour.
A back injury prevented him from building on that form and although he finished the 2010 campaign in 11th position on the Order of Merit, Longmuir feels he still has much more to achieve, if he can stabilise his form with the putter.
“My game is so hot and cold as you can see in my record,” he said. “When I get my putter hot I’m hard to beat but it all surrounds that.
“I hate to admit that as I can’t get away from it but I walk off the course most weeks disappointed because I probably put too much focus on my putting. It’s a big part of the game and something that I’ve always struggled mentally and physically with but I feel as if I’m in good shape and I feel as if I could do well.
“Last year’s opening round 64 was typical of my game – it’s so up and down it is a joke. It was special victory though. My son Callum was caddying for me – unfortunately he can’t make it this year - but it was an amazing round and a great win.”
The signs are encouraging for Longmuir ahead of his defence in the Senior Tour’s first of four tournaments in England in 2011. Although he missed the cut in last week’s US Senior PGA Championship, Longmuir finished tied third a fortnight ago in the OKI Open de España Senior by Cleveland Golf/Srixon.
“I played very well in Spain but just putted poorly in the final round. Overall I was pleased with my game though. I went to the States and had a disappointing time. I missed the cut but I thought I played quite well.
“This course really suits my eye. I felt very comfortable here last year. There are a lot of demanding tee shots but the shape of the holes tended to suit the way I hit the ball. I’ve very vivid memories of the course so I feel as though I can do well again.”
Longmuir will face a stern examination in his defence of the title with former Ryder Cup Captains Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam in the field along with Carl Mason, the man who captured a record breaking 24th Senior Tour title in Spain two weeks ago.
One man who he will not have to contend with is Longmuir’s fellow Scot Sandy Lyle who has been forced to withdraw from the event due to illness.
“I’m disappointed for Sandy because this is a course that would suit his game,” said Longmuir. “He carries the ball an amazing length and this is a long course. I would have thought Sandy would have been favourite with his game here.
“I played with Carl in the last round in Spain and he is tough to beat too though. Twenty-four wins – what a record! This is a man who just has the all round game. He doesn’t miss fairways, he putts well and has a great head. His course management is brilliant – you never count Carl Mason out.”
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