Having won twice already this season on tight courses, Englishman Paul Wesselingh is hoping his accuracy can pay dividends again at Terre Blanche Hotel Spa Golf Resort in the French Riviera Masters.
Wesselingh currently lies second on the European Senior Tour Order of Merit after victories in the ISPS HANDA PGA Seniors Championship at De Vere Mottram Hall in England and the Bad Ragaz PGA Senior Open at Golf Club Bad Ragaz in Switzerland, both narrow courses that demanded straight hitting from the tee.
The 51 year old is confident of another strong performance this week having finished tied third in last year’s French Riviera Masters, one shot behind compatriot David J Russell and American Tim Thelen, who contested a play-off before Russell eventually prevailed on the third extra hole.
Wesselingh struggled with a new driver in last week’s Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior), where he finished tied ninth, but with a change of shaft and some time spent ironing out the problem on the practice range, he now hopes to contend again this week on another tight, tree-lined course in the south of France.
“This is the sort of course that suits my style of play,” he said. “It’s tight in places and you have to rely on a lot of shot manufacturing and positional play, which is my strength.
“I played so well in the last round last year but I missed a couple of putts on the 17th and 18th, otherwise I might have tied with DJ and Tim.
“I had a good go at it on the 18th but hit it too hard, but it is always pleasing to have a top ten finish.
“Last week I struggled with my driver, which I was hitting straight but not long enough. I found the final round very difficult as a result, but I’ve change the equipment so I can’t blame that now.
“This course definitely suits me and I’m looking forward to it. I’m a great believer in horses for courses and if I can get my putter working, hopefully I will have a good week.”
Last year Wesselingh arrived at the French Riviera Masters chasing the Rookie of the Year title, which he went on to secure after finishing fifth on the Order of Merit. This time, his sights are on succeeding fellow Englishman Roger Chapman as winner of John Jacobs Trophy awarded for finishing the season as European Senior Tour Number One.
“Sometimes you can concentrate too much on the goal and not what is ahead of you, so I’m trying not to get too focused on the Order of Merit,” said Wesselingh, who plays alongside last week’s winner Simon P Brown and Japan’s Massy Kuramoto in the first round. “But I’ve got five more events to play, including this week, and hopefully it will take care of itself.
“Steen Tinning is not far behind me and if someone who is in the top ten wins this week, all of a sudden they are up there with us. So I’m aware of the chance I have in the Order of Merit, but I’m not concentrating too much on it.
“I feel like I have a similar mind-set coming here this year because last time I was chasing the Rookie of the Year award, and this year it is the Order of Merit. I’m feeling very confident though. The last few results have been good – finishing tied second in Woburn and top ten last week. You can see the pattern of results I have – Bad Ragaz, Woburn are all tight courses and are all demanding off the tee.”
Meanwhile, Russell is battling to be fit in time for the defence of his title after suffering a hamstring injury two weeks ago in Germany. He missed Thursday’s Pro-Am to give the problem more time to heal and hopes to be able to join Thelen and tournament host Marc Farry in the first round.