Monday, March 02, 2009

Woosnam strives for further Glory

After a stunning rookie European Senior Tour season, Ian Woosnam prepares to embark on the new campaign with his sights set on doing something he never quite managed on The European Tour – winning back to back Order of Merits. The Welshman will begin his defence of the John Jacobs Trophy, presented to the leading Senior Tour player, when he tees up in the DGM Barbados Open at Royal Westmoreland from March 18-20. Woosnam, who owns a home on the Caribbean island, made his debut in the tournament last year a week after turning 50, finishing fifth behind winner Bill Longmuir of Scotland. He went on to win the Parkridge Polish Seniors Championship and the Russian Seniors Open en route to being named Rookie of the Year as he finished the season as the leading Senior Tour money earner with €320,120. In doing so, Europe’s 2006 Ryder Cup winning Captain became the first former European Tour Order of Merit winner to repeat the feat on the Senior Tour, writing another chapter of history in what is an already distinguished career. Woosnam’s two Harry Vardon Trophy victories on The European Tour came in 1987 and 1990 but, as embarks on the new campaign, he is determined not to have such a gap this time before landing his second Senior Tour crown. “It would be great to win back-to-back Order of Merits,” said Woosnam, who celebrates his 51st birthday today (March 2). “My two titles on The European Tour were three years apart. I’m hoping to play enough tournaments to win it but you’ve got to win a couple of times and play well in the bigger tournaments. “I’ve had this break to rest and hopefully my health will be better ready for the new season. I’ll play as much as I can. I’m going to play in the Masters Tournament and maybe four or five Champions Tour events in America but as soon as the Senior Tour starts here in Europe I’ll be back to play.” As well as aiming to follow in the footsteps of 2002 Ryder Cup winning Captain Sam Torrance by winning consecutive John Jacobs Trophies on the Senior Tour (Torrance’s double came in 2005 and 2006), Woosnam has also targeted a maiden Senior Major Championship victory in 2009. The 2009 Senior Open Championship presented by MasterCard will be held in July at Sunningdale Golf Club, a place where Woosnam has previously tasted success having won The European Open there in 1988 and posted a hole in one at the Berkshire course in 1983. He feels it could be the ideal opportunity to add another Major Championship title to sit alongside his career defining win at Augusta National in 1991. “Winning the John Jacobs Trophy sits alongside the rest of the achievements in my career,” he said. “It will go on the mantelpiece with the rest of them. What I want to do now though is win a Major. It would be great to win The Senior Open Championship at Sunningdale as it’s a course I know well, although it has changed a bit.” Woosnam knows he will have to be at the top of his game in 2009 if he is to achieve his dual goal, with Bernhard Langer and Greg Norman also both eyeing their own maiden Senior Major Championship victory, while competition in Europe is expected to be tougher than ever. The former World Number One finished €62,376 ahead of Englishman Gordon J Brand, also a two time winner, in the 2008 Order of Merit. However, Woosnam is expecting it to be much closer this year, given that Brand’s compatriot Peter Mitchell finished third in the Order of Merit after winning three times in just ten appearances. Competition is also expected from all-time leading Senior Tour money winner Carl Mason, the 2007 Order of Merit winner who will be looking to regain his crown, and the injury-hit Torrance, who seems to have regained his best form after winning the 2008 season ending OKI Castellón Open España – Senior Tour Championship. Woosnam said: “Peter Mitchell started a couple of weeks after I did and if he had played the full season perhaps he could have done it (won the Order of Merit). I definitely think the Senior Tour is getting stronger and stronger. A lot of these guys know how to get a ball around a golf course. It’s not always about brute strength you know.”

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