Monday, May 11, 2009

Seniors Success for Mark James

Mark James defeated former Ryder Cup teammate Eamonn Darcy in a play-off to win the Son Gual Mallorca Senior Open and clinch his second European Senior Tour victory after a thrilling final day in Palma. The 55 year old Englishman birdied the third extra hole after the pair tied on ten under par 206 to make it back-to-back wins for former Ryder Cup Captains on the Senior Tour, following Sam Torrance’s victory in the DGM Barbados Open. His €45,000 first prize also means James replaces Torrance at the top of the Senior Tour Order of Merit, while Darcy once again missed out on his maiden Senior Tour title, finishing runner up for the eighth time. James and Darcy, who were Ryder Cup teammates in 1977 and 1981, both produced magnificent final rounds to deny overnight leader Roger Chapman a dream debut victory and the chance to become the joint youngster Senior Tour winner at 50 years and nine days. Irishman Darcy had set the clubhouse target after a flawless final round 65 at Son Gual Golf but James was in equally scintillating form, carding a 66 to take the contest to a play-off. Both players parred the replayed 18th twice before James produced a fine approach shot to within five foot for a birdie on the third extra hole, while Darcy could once again only manage par as his 15ft putt shaved the hole. That meant James, the 1999 Ryder Cup Captain at Brookline, captured his first Senior Tour title since the European Senior Masters in 2005. “It’s great to win and I’m delighted,” said the 18 time European Tour champion. “I’ve been playing a lot better recently and to win is just great. “I played well down the stretch and to hole that putt well give me a lot of confidence going to America for the US Senior PGA Championship in a week. You aren’t going to hole too many putts on this course so I hit it really close. “Myself and Eamonn go back donkey’s years so it was great to be in a play-off together. I remember playing together in The 1977 Ryder Cup because Darcy kept on taking me and Ken Brown off to a nightclub in the days before anyone noticed those sort of things! If he had won I would have been delighted for him. “I don’t know why Eamonn hasn’t won on this Tour – he did nothing wrong at all today and shot a very low score and he made pars in the play-off so I’m sure the future is rosy. “You never know in a play-off – it could go either way. I’ve been playing well lately though. I played great in the Legends with Des Smyth a couple of weeks ago when we finished fifth. This win on a different type of course has given me great confidence that I can go anywhere and pick up my swing and play well.”James added that he wanted to play more in Europe this season, as well as continue on the US Champions Tour where he won the Senior Players Championship in 2004. “I’m hoping to play a full season in America but I want to play here whenever I can. The atmosphere is great and it has been great to see the guys again. It’s been fantastic this week.” Darcy’s second place was his best finish on the Senior Tour since 2006 but he admitted he was disappointed not to break his duck after a stunning final round in which he carded seven birdies. “I thought ten under par was going to be enough but credit to Mark for shooting a low round,” said the 56 year old. “My putter was hot. It was like the old days! I never looked at the leaderboard all day and I hoped it was going to be enough walking off but it wasn’t to be.” Chapman, who had a two stroke overnight lead, bogeyed the first hole but rallied around the turn before he found the water on the 12th hole to finally put pay to his chances of a record equalling debut win. He said: “I’m disappointed but if you said to me before the tournament you’d finish third on your own I would have taken it. I probably played better today than the first two days but couldn’t hole anything. Overall I’m delighted though with my start on the Senior Tour.” Mike Cunning, winner of the season opening Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum on his own Senior Tour debut, carded a superb 65 to join Darcy as the holder of the joint course record and finish fourth.

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