The world’s best veteran golfers will descend on Walton Heath in Surrey this week for the Senior Open Championship. Bernhard Langer defends the title and an impressive selection of former Major champions will start.
Defending champion Bernhard Langer made his Ryder Cup debut at Walton Heath back in 1981. In that event the German and his European counterparts suffered defeat from, arguably, the greatest ever US Ryder Cup side. Langer is looking forward to returning to the heath.
“My Ryder Cup debut was obviously a memorable part of my life,” he said. “I was pleased to win one and a half points from my four starts. Although we lost to one of the strongest American teams in history, it was still the start of my love affair with The Ryder Cup.”
Last year Langer held off 2010 US Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin around the testing links at Carnoustie to win the Senior Open title. He then flew across the Atlantic and picked up the US Senior Open title the following week.
Fresh off the back of his superb performance at Royal St George’s where he finished in a tie for 22nd, 62-year-old Tom Watson will be one of the favourites this week. It’s a tournament he has won three times before, in 2003, 2005 and 2007. Those victories sit alongside his five Open Championship titles.
Nick Price makes his Senior Open debut this week. The three-time Major winner is now 54 but scheduling conflicts have meant he hasn’t been able to compete in this event until this season.
“We usually take the kids on holiday during the summer but they are getting older now and my mother lives in England so we thought we’d visit her first then I can play at Walton Heath,” he said. “It will be great having the kids there to support me too. As they’ve got older they’ve started to appreciate what I did in my career.”
The Old Course at Walton Heath was opened in 1904 with a match between the great triumvirate: Taylor, Vardon and Braid. The Scot was already the club’s professional and he continued to hold the position right up to his death in 1950.
Walton Heath has an illustrious history and Braid is by no means the only famous figure to have an association with the club. Prior to the First World War no fewer than 24 MPs were members, including Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George. Legendary cricketer W.G Grace was also a member, it used to be said he compiled as many hundred’s around the Heath as he did at Lords.
Over the years, the club has been the location for numerous competitions both amateur and professional. The Old Course was used for five European Opens and 23 World Matchplay Championships, but perhaps the most spectacular contest hosted at Walton Heath was the Ryder Cup of 1981 when a majestic US side steamrollered GB&I 18.5 – 9.5. Since 2005 Walton Heath has been the venue for the European qualifier for the US Open.
On the course, mature pines and silver birches line the sandy fairways that become fast running through the summer months. With the protection of heather, gorse and the ever-changeable wind, excellent ball striking will be required if the players are to score well. The greens are large and many appear flat. But, there are some subtle borrows that will confuse even the best putters.
Key hole: 17th. 206 yards away, the green appears to be a very
small target. If you do find the surface there are some extremely
deceptive breaks to contend with.
Venue: Walton Heath Golf Club, Surrey
Date: Jul 21 – 24
Course stats: par 72, 7,394 yards
Purse: €1,410,000 Winner: €220,961
Defending Champion: Bernhard Langer (-5)
Thursday 21- Live on Sky Sports 2 from 12pm (moves onto red button)
Friday 22 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 12pm (moves onto red button)
Saturday 23 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 4pm (starts on red button at 3.30pm)
Sunday 24 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 4pm (starts on red button at 3.30pm)
Barry Lane – The Englishman celebrates his 51st birthday on the first day of the tournament. He’s enjoyed success on both the senior and regular Tours this season – he was tied 14th at the recent Scottish Open at Castle Stuart. He’s a strong and solid player who is capable of beating the very best, remember him winning $1 million in the 1995 Accenture World Championship of Golf?
Peter Fowler – He’s been on superb form on the European Seniors Tour this season, having already recorded two wins, a second and a third. He’s second on the money list behind Tom Watson, though Watson is only at the top courtesy of his victory in the US Senior PGA Championship.
Tom Watson – The evergreen American continues to play wonderful golf. His performance at Royal St George’s was outstanding, particularly when you consider his round on Saturday was completed in the worst of the weather. A three-time winner of this tournament and clearly on good form, he’ll be tough to beat.
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