Woosie faces harder Porthcawl test on his Royal visit for the Wales Senior Open

FORMER Masters champion  and world No.1 Ian Woosnam  will tackle one of the longest  courses on the European  Senior Tour when the Speedy  Services Wales Open returns to  Royal Porthcawl today.

With the Mid Glamorgan  links just a year away from  hosting a first Major in Wales when the Senior Open Championship hits these shores, the  Wales Open this year is  something of a dry run for the  likes of golfing superstars   Tom  Watson, Greg Norman,  Bernhard Langer, Corey Pavin,  Fred Couples, Nick Faldo,  Colin Montgomerie, Davis  Love, Miguel Angel Jimenez  and Woosie himself doing  battle at Porthcawl the following summer.

And a new-look Royal Porthcawl will await the stars of the  European Senior Tour as the  course is being modified ahead  of hosting the tournament for  the first time since John  Bland’s victory in 2010.

At 7,071 yards, it is expected  to be the longest course on the  Senior Tour in 2013 aside from  Royal Birkdale which hosts  this year’s Senior Open Championship.

The course layout is being  re-routed for the Wales Senior  Open so that players will start  from the normal 18th hole and  finish on the 17th.

Significant changes have  also been made to several  holes, with new tees on the  tournament holes six, seven,  11, 12 and 13.

The greens at the fifth, sixth,  10th, 11th and 13th holes of the  tournament layout have also  been re-contoured, with the  new 504-yard par-five finishing  hole set up to provide an exciting climax to both the Wales  Senior Open and next year’s  Senior Open Championship,  which takes place from July  24-27, 2014.

“It’s fantastic to see the Senior Open Championship coming to Wales following on from  the success of the 2010 Ryder  Cup,” said Woosnam, who tees  off today alongside Santiago  Luna and Gordon Brand Junior.

“We put on a great show at  Celtic Manor and now we’ll put  on a great show at Royal Porthcawl.

“Winning the Ryder Cup  showed the world that Wales is  a terrific golfing venue and I’ll  be looking forward to playing  in 2014 at Royal Porthcawl.”

Since opening his 2013 campaign with a tied 59th place  finish at the US Senior PGA  Championship, Woosnam has  enjoyed great success on both  the Champions Tour (tied seventh at this month’s Principal  Charity Classic) and back in  Europe at last week’s ISPS  HANDA PGA Seniors Championship (third).

Buoyed by his  finish in  Cheshire last week, the 2006  Ryder Cup-winning captain is  excited to be heading back to  play on home soil.

“It’s always good to play in  Wales, and obviously the Wales  Senior Open is a tournament  I’d love to win,” added  Woosnam.

“Royal Porthcawl is a classic  links course and I’ve always  enjoyed the challenges of links  golf, so hopefully it brings out  the best in me again.

“I didn’t play as well as I can  for the first three days last  week but I still scored pretty  well, then on the last day  everything came together  nicely and I put a great score  together.

“So if I can carry on in that  same vein, I’d be confident of  having a decent week.

“A lot depends on the conditions really, because when  the wind whips in off the sea at  Porthcawl, it can be a very  tricky test.”

With that in mind  Woosie has  gone back to the old school  this week.

The Welsh legend believes  that, for all its benefits, modern-day technology in golf cannot combat the unique  shot-making challenges posed  by one of Britain’s toughest and  most wind-swept seaside venues.

Speaking as a  35-mile-an-hour wind tore off  the Bristol Channel and  straight up the first fairway at   Porthcawl, Woosnam added:  “With this week in mind, I  have actually been practising  for the last few weeks with a  one iron, or driving iron as  they call it nowadays.

“Porthcawl is a brilliant test  of shot-making and the conditions here can sometimes  make the modern technology  hard to use.

“The modern equipment in  golf is amazing, but none of  those clubs can help you keep  the ball low to the ground into  a 30 mile an hour wind.

“Sometimes the modern  equipment can be difficult for  the older players to use.

“I like to shape the ball and  it is becoming more and more  difficult to do that.”

Despite the intimidating  conditions, Woosnam,  is  clearly relishing being back in  the ‘Land of his Fathers’.

“My game is in pretty good  shape and the most important  thing is that I am enjoying the  game again and I hope that  continues this week,” he added.

 “I love Porthcawl and the  way you need to play the  course.

“It is the kind of course that  you have to play like a jigsaw:  you have to put yourself in the  right position for the next shot  all the time, because if you are  playing from the wrong spot,  or the rough, then you have no  chance.”

Woosnam will not only  have to overcome the might of  Royal Porthcawl to take home  the lion’s share of the £250,000  prize fund, he will also have to  best a field that includes many  of the Senior Tour’s finest including defending champion  Barry Lane, former Ryder Cup  captain Mark James, the  Tour’s most prolific winner  Carl Mason and 2011 Order of  Merit winner Peter Fowler.

 Lane held off competition  from fellow Englishman Phillip Golding to win by a stroke  at Conwy  a year ago.

“Porthcawl is just one of the  great links courses in the  world,” said Lane.

“It will be a privilege to  defend the Wales Senior Open  there, and it will also be great  to get a really good look at the  course before the Senior  Open next year,” said Lane,  who has  James and last  Sunday’s PGA winner and fellow Englishman Paul Wesselingh for company today.

Lane will hope to reproduce his sparkling play  en-route to taking the title 12  months ago, when a picture  perfect four-iron to the penultimate hole proved the crucial blow in securing his victory.

He said: “Every time you  win a tournament it is special,  but to win in that manner,  having to hit that four iron  when the pressure was really  on and managing to pull it off,  was extremely satisfying.

“That is what we are still  playing for.

“We are all still very competitive on the Senior Tour,  and when those moments  come around in tournaments  you realise how much you still  want to win.

“Hopefully we can have a  similar finish to the tournament this year, and it would be  great if I could play my way  into contention again.”

On the new layout with next summer’s Senior Open very much in mind Michael Petch, tournament director of the Wales Senior Open, said: “The existing 18 holes were originally laid out in 1909 and reshaping the greens came about as a result of modern machinery more than doubling the speed of the greens compared to when they were originally designed.

“We feel that the new course format will also provide the best spectator experience, while also providing a challenging and exciting layout for our players.

“All of these changes have been made with next year’s Senior Open Championship in mind, when Royal Porthcawl will host the prestigious event for the first time.

“We are all looking forward to  Wales Senior Open to see exactly how these modifications play, and how our leading players tackle the new look course at Royal Porthcawl.”

It’s the third time Royal Porthcawl has hosted the Wales Senior Open, after 2009 when South African Bertus Smit triumphed and in 2010 when his compatriot Bland claimed the title.

Michael Newland, secretary of Royal Porthcawl, added: “The club is delighted to be hosting the Wales Senior Open for a third time.

“Royal Porthcawl has a rich tournament history, hosting the first Penfold tournament in 1932, the Coral Classic, the Walker Cup and The Amateur Championship on six occasions. Players and spectators alike have enjoyed the course, and with the changes that have taken place we hope this will enhance their experience.”

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/other-sport/golf/woosie-faces-harder-porthcawl-test-4313547