David J Russell returns to the course where he finally ended his seven year wait for a European Senior Tour title when he defends his De Vere Club PGA Seniors Championship title at Slaley Hall this week.
The Englishman had finished runner up nine times on the Senior Tour before he captured his maiden victory 12 months ago, holding his nerve to finish two strokes clear of Angel Franco, Barry Lane and Chris Williams after a dramatic final round.
Russell, who is known as DJ, opened up a six stroke lead in the final round but his challenge almost fell apart around the turn before a remarkable recovery to eventually take the title and shed the tag of being the Senior Tour player to record most runner up finishes without a victory.
“I dealt with the pressure pretty well until that final round,” he recalled. “You go through all the emotions.
“At Slaley Hall there is stretch of key holes that you have to play well – eight and nine being two of them – and I got to the position of being six clear when I came to them. On the eighth you have to hit the ball where you can’t see it, around the corner, and I tried to play it sensibly where I could see it. Unfortunately the wind got hold of it and I triple bogeyed, then double bogeyed the ninth and bogeyed the tenth.
“Suddenly I walked on to the 11th tee being one behind which was quite a shock after being six ahead. I handled it pretty well though and dug in and birdied the 11th and 12th which really put me back on the rails again. It was obviously destined to be my day. Looking back it is amazing that I managed to pull myself together and win by two shots.”
It proved to be something of a family celebration for the Russells, with DJ’s son Chris on the bag and his wife Krystyna and daughter Laura in the crowd.
“It’s probably only happened about three times in the last 20 years that I’ve had all the family there together so it really was just one of those days for me,” said Russell. “It was certainly the highlight of my Senior Tour career. The PGA Seniors Championship, apart from the Senior Open, is our flagship event. The history and past winners makes it a wonderful trophy to get your name on.”
Hoping to deny Russell a successful defence will be his close friend and business associate Ian Woosnam and another former Ryder Cup Captain in Sam Torrance, along with two-time Major Champion Sandy Lyle who returns to action after retiring from the US Senior PGA Championship and last week’s ISPS Handa Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum due to illness.
Also in the field is Carl Mason, a three-time winner of the championship, who is looking to kick on after setting a new record of 24 Senior Tour victories in Spain last month.
“I feel even more relaxed about my game now the record is out the way so I hope to enjoy myself even more,” said Mason. “Playing four rounds at Slaley Hall, rather than the normal three, is a long week for us. The Senior PGA is a special event to win and I’m lucky to have done it three times. “
Scotland’s Andrew Oldcorn, who famously won the PGA Championship on The European Tour in 2001, will be hoping to make it a PGA double after finishing runner up to Peter Fowler in last week’s ISPS Handa Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum.
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