The curtain comes down on the 2012 European Senior Tour campaign this week, with the sunshine island of Mauritius once again the stunning setting for the season-ending MCB Tour Championship.
For Englishman Roger Chapman, the double Senior Major Champion, the tournament represents the chance to sign off his unforgettable year by collecting the John Jacobs Trophy for winning the Order of Merit.
Similarly American Tom Lehman will also have cause for celebration as he ends his own fine season by defending the MCB Tour Championship he won 12 months ago.
Former World Number One Lehman, who recently won his second consecutive Charles Schwab Cup on the US Champions Tour, finished one shot clear of South African David Frost last year in his debut in the event.
Frost had been bidding for back-to-back victories at Constance Belle Mare Plage, having defeated Chapman in a play-off the previous year to win the MCB Open, the tournament which then became the MCB Tour Championship last year.
Frost had been two shots back playing the last hole but produced a sensational eagle to deny Chapman a sentimental victory just days after the death of his long term mentor George Will, the former Ryder Cup player.
“It was a sad day and I was just wanted to do it for George,” he said. “I was four shots behind Frosty going into the last round and played great then he eagled the last. It’s well documented that I have lost a few tournaments and I’ve had a few taken away from me, and that one was taken away from me. I couldn’t believe it. My strategy up the last was the right one – to make five and if he makes three it’s all well and good, fair play, but I wasn’t going to risk a six.
“When things like that happen you think, ‘why me’. My ambition really was just to win on the Senior Tour, then all of a sudden what has happened this year it has been incredible.”
It promises to be an altogether happier occasion this time round for Chapman following his magnificent 2012 campaign. The 53 year old won both the US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid and the US Senior Open in Michigan and, with a €100,382 advantage over Barry Lane in the Order of Merit, he heads to Mauritius having already secured the John Jacobs Trophy.
That means that, aside from the contest for the MCB Tour Championship trophy itself, the main battle will be for second place in the Order of Merit, with Lane currently €8,157 ahead of the in-form American Tim Thelen, who captured his third victory of the season at the Fubon Senior Open in Taiwan last month.
In turn, Thelen, who also won the Berenberg Bank Masters in Germany and the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open in Switzerland this season, has a €51,048 cushion over Peter Fowler, the 2011 Order of Merit winner, who is fourth in this year’s money list.
With the top four players on the Order of Merit securing a place in the 2013 US Senior Open, Fowler will be looking over his shoulder at the performance of fifth placed Englishman Paul Wesselingh, who is just €13,249 behind him.
Wesselingh, winner of the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship, has already confirmed his status as the 2012 Rookie of the Year, and the Qualifying School graduate will be hoping to end a fine debut season on another high note in Mauritius.
Another debutant who has enjoyed a superb start to life on the Senior Tour is Wesselingh’s compatriot Philip Golding, who recorded back-to-back runner’s up finishes in Scotland and Wales earlier in the season after turning 50 in July,
Golding, who starts the week 17th on the Order of Merit after playing just six events, is no stranger to Constance Belle Mare Plage having won the Mauritius Open in 1996.
Denmark’s Steen Tinning, a two-time European Tour champion, also makes his debut in the MCB Tour Championship after turning 50 in October.
The strength of the field means that 1996 Open Champion Lehman is expecting a tough challenge in his bid to defend the title.
“There are many very good players who will be competing at the MCB Tour Championship, so I will have to play my best to have a chance to win again,” said the 2006 US Ryder Cup Captain.
“Guys like David Frost and Barry Lane and Peter Fowler will be tough to beat. Tim Thelen, a fellow American as well as a friend of mine, has had a great year and has a game that will be very suited to the course.”
Another player keen to play well in the €400,000 tournament is Frenchman Marc Farry. The two-time Senior Tour champion is sponsored by the host resort of Constance Belle Mare Plage where he has his own academy, and was last year made an official Ambassador for Mauritius.