Carl Mason claimed his 25th European Senior Tour title at the Benahavis Senior Masters after the Englishman’s two under par final round of 69 handed him a three shot victory at La Quinta Golf and Country Club in Benahavis, Spain.
It was Mason’s second win of the 2011 season as he continued his love affair with Spain, the country where he sealed his first European Tour win at the Open de España in 1994 and also broke Tommy Horton’s record of Senior Tour titles with his 24th at the OKI Open de España Senior by Cleveland Golf/Srixon last May.
Mason also emerged victorious here in the inaugural Benahavis Senior Masters in 2009, when he beat Gordon Brand Jnr in a play-off, and finished joint second in the same tournament last year.
The 58 year old’s victory this time around, which earned him €27,000 and saw him leap into eighth spot in the Senior Tour Order of Merit, came after successive birdies on the second and third holes lifted him to the summit early on alongside overnight leader Gary Wolstenholme, before the six-time Walker Cup player dropped three shots, including a double-bogey at the par three eighth, to slip back.
Mason birdied the ninth to put go four shots ahead of his playing partner but Mark James was also sneaking up from behind after a one under par front nine of 34 put him just three shots off the pace when the final groups reached the turn.
The 1999 Ryder Cup Captain did make a push on the back nine with back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th but a bogey on the 16th ended his hopes and he finished tied second with Wolstenholme on six under par.
Mason did set up a nervy finish after bogeys on the 13th and 14th meant he was just two shots clear of the resurgent Wolstenholme, who birdied the 12th and 14th to move to seven under, but Mason steadied the ship to finish nine under for the tournament and clinch the victory.
“I played really well and I'm delighted with the win,” said the two-time European Tour winner, “I was happy to be under par, especially on the back nine, which was really tricky.
“It was just a case of keeping patient, you always felt like you were going to drop another shot on that back nine but I was pleased, I played some lovely stuff on the front nine and then hung on well.
“It’s just a weird thing,” he continued, referring to the fact that he has now won six Senior Tour titles in Spain. “There must be something in the water here, or probably in the Rioja! I always putt well on these greens, I just have a feel for them and you always have to have that.”
Having already broken the record for Senior Tour wins this year, it may have seemed easy to take the foot off the brakes somewhat but Mason is still hungry for success and hopes there are many more to come.
“It doesn’t get any easier, I’ll confess that much,” he admitted. “The standards are getting better and better so it’s a great thrill to keep on winning. The last one was a big one but to get 25 feels great too.”
James, meanwhile, was happy with his lot after clinching his best finish this season thanks to a level par round of 71 that left him six under for the tournament.
“It was a bit of a struggle on the greens today, I had a few three putts,” said James, “I didn’t play too badly, I just couldn’t score but it was tough out there so 71 wasn’t too bad a round to be honest.
“I played reasonably well, my stroke felt pretty good today and even though I didn’t hole much, my game felt OK. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen and I never really got going.”
Wolstenholme joined the 18-time European Tour winner in second place after he carded for a two over par round of 73.
Ross Drummond of Scotland finished in fourth place, a result made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was close to withdrawing on the second day due to food poisoning.
Having not eaten anything on the day of his second round, he carded an admirable one under par 70 before a three under par final round of 68 left him five under for the tournament.
Bob Cameron (70), Mark Mouland (67) and Costantino Rocca (70) finished tied fifth on four under while Peter Fowler’s one under par final round of 70 earned him a tied 11th finish that meant he extended his lead in the Order of Merit to €25,570, ahead of Barry Lane, who finished tied 25th in Benahavis after a five over par final round of 76.