An outstanding field of Major Champions and some of golf’s most charismatic characters head to Muirfield this week to challenge for one of the biggest honours in seniors golf at The Senior Open Championship 2007, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management.
At close of entries for the US$2,000,000 championship, to be played over 72 holes on the magnificent East Lothian links from 26-29 July, a total of 14 Major Champions and 21 Senior Major Champions featured on the list of 110 exempt players.
Included in the international line-up are three Championship debutants with nine Major trophies between them: Nick Faldo of England, who celebrated his 50th birthday last week, Wayne Grady of Australia and Mark O’Meara of the United States.
Faldo is arguably the greatest English golfer of all time. For 20 years from 1977, his relentless pursuit of perfection saw him win 39 titles worldwide.
He took a while to win a Major, finally doing so in 1987 at Muirfield on a memorable last day when he defied the conditions and his opponents with a display of precision golf which saw him take par at every hole. He added five more Majors – The Open in 1990 and the 1992 edition back at Muirfield, plus the Masters Tournament in 1989, 1990 and 1996.
Although Faldo will be only eight days into his 50th year when he tees up in Thursday’s first round, he will not be the youngest competitor in the 144 man field. That honour goes to Grady, the 1990 US PGA Champion and BBC golf commentator, who celebrates his 50th on the first day of the Championship.
O’Meara, who tasted success in The Open and the Masters during a brilliant spell in 1998, reached Seniors eligibility in January and forms part of a star-studded United States contingent that also features, among others, defending Senior Open champion Loren Roberts, US Champions Tour Money Leader Jay Haas, and Major winners Ben Crenshaw, Jerry Pate, Craig Stadler and Tom Watson.
Watson, winner of The Senior Open Championship in 2003 and 2005, previously tasted success at Muirfield in The Open of 1980 and another of the venue’s former Open champions, and a three-time winner of The Senior Open, South African Gary Player, is set to make his 20th appearance in the competition at the age of 71.
Tony Jacklin of England is another veteran whose return to Muirfield will bring back some strong memories. The former Ryder Cup Captain was denied a second Claret Jug when Lee Trevino rode his luck to edge a dramatic final day in 1972, but 35 years later he is glad to be heading back to the East Lothian links.
He said, “I think Muirfield is the best links course we have in Britain. When I say that I mean I think it is the fairest of all the links: you have run-ins to all the holes and you can bounce the ball in. It’s a great test of golf and a wonderful place.
“This year you have Faldo and a great field from America, so it should be a great Championship. Jay Haas and some of those Champions Tour guys are quite phenomenal.”
From mainland Europe there is Italian favourite Costantino Rocca, who is having a fine maiden season on the European Seniors Tour having won the AIB Irish Seniors Open in June.
Juan Quiros of Spain is in excellent form having won the Open de France Senior Divonne earlier this month, while Carl Mason of England, a 15-time winner on the European Seniors Tour, has proven his ability at this level by losing a play-off to Watson in The 2003 Senior Open Championship.
Sam Torrance of Scotland, winner of the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit in the last two seasons, has bounced back to form in time for the event with victory in the Bendinat London Seniors Masters and a share of fifth place at the US Senior Open.
Last year’s runner-up Eduardo Romero went desperately close to winning the US Senior PGA in May and will be trying to notch a memorable double for Argentina after Angel Cabrera’s US Open victory.
An adult season ticket (which allows entry to the course on all four tournament days plus the practice day on Wednesday July 25) can be purchased on the gate and costs £60 and any one-day ticket is £20, while entrance to the practice day is £10. There is no entry charge for U-16s, providing an adult accompanies them, and car parking is also free.
European Tour www.europeantour.com
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