Throwing off the fear of winning

Oscar Wilde wrote, “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.”

The stage is set for the MCB Tour Championship 2013

The stage is set for the MCB Tour Championship 2013

It’s an adage the finest players on the European Senior Tour may not be aware of, but might ponder because they are all aware that late in their career they are being rewarded on the course for the many years of hard work that has gone before.

When I asked Colin Montgomerie to determine the difference between his prime and today he was open and forthright, although initially he joked: “Hang on, I’ve forgotten the question … that’s not a good sign, is it?”

More seriously he added, “I think we all relax more. I’m definitely more relaxed now than I’ve ever been. We’ve all been successful and have nothing to prove, so we relax and enjoy it. And you know what? You tend to do something better if you enjoy it.”

Of course Montgomerie had a stunning career which needs little polishing on the senior tours. He won 31 times on the European Tour (only three men have won more), represented Europe eight times in the Ryder Cup and won it as captain in 2010.

He nods when I ask him to discuss about the narrow margin between victory and close defeat.

“It’s a good question and one I have recent experience of at the AT&T Championship in San Antonio.

“What we, as golfers, all have to accept is that you lose a lot more than you win. If you win three times in a year that’s a great year, but you might have played 30 times so you lose quite a bit.

“At senior level I’ve seen a lot less fear of winning and yet there was a fear of winning on the main tour. No-one throws it away out here – we think: ‘We might as well just go and do it.’

“So the standard of play is very high because of that mentality. You can’t rely on others to make bogies, you’ve got to keep making birdies.”

The Legend, Constance Belle Mare Plage

The Legend, Constance Belle Mare Plage

“That’s what happened in San Antonio – I was two ahead with nine to play, played the back nine in level par and was overtaken by two men. Level par on these events is not good enough and it usually was on the main tour.”

David Frost understood Montgomerie’s point: “Definitely the players have lost that fear. I lost out to Russ Cochran recently – I had a lead with four holes to play, he birdied the last four holes and beat me by one shot!

“I also think that we don’t try so many things. When you’re young you try everything and it’s probably too much. When you get here, you use what got you here.”

Denmark’s Steen Tinning agrees: “You stop trying to be a world champion and you understand your limits.

“And once you are in the zone you keep going on the back nine. But it’s a long process which some of us just had to go through that. It takes a lot of years to gain that experience and I needed that time. Now I have it and I felt comfortable in contention this year.”

The stats back the Dane’s claims up – twice this year he held the lead with 18 holes to play and twice he converted the win.

Like the Montgomerie family, the Tinnings are enjoying the beach and all the facilities at Constance Belle Mare Plage this week. Both are hoping to put their lack of fear into practice if they are in contention come the final round on Sunday.

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Miguel Angel Jimenez – an ageless legend of European golf

There was a time when golfers licked their lips at the prospect of senior golf and as he prepared for his debut in the MCB Tour Championship at Constance Belle Mare Plage Colin Montgomerie admitted that he made that “mistake”.

The red wine is waiting for Miguel Angel Jimenez

The red wine is waiting for Miguel Angel Jimenez

“You turn fifty and think you’ll win lots of events,” he said. “But the standard is very high and I underestimated that.”

All of which makes the performances of Miguel Angel Jimenez on the main tour all the more extraordinary. At a time when most players notice their power wane Jimenez has done the opposite, winning 13 of his 20 European Tour titles since he turned 40.

The most recent of those wins came last week in the Hong Kong Open, less than one month shy of his 50th birthday (and qualification for the Senior Tour), which means all of the players in this week’s field have an eye on the Spaniard’s stunning feats.

Montgomerie knows exactly what ‘The Mechanic’ (as he is better known on tour) has achieved.

“All credit to him to be winning as he turns fifty on the European Tour,” said the Scot. “It’s something I tried to do – and failed – so I realise what he’s done. And it’s also tremendous that he has come back from a skiing injury earlier this year too. That’s tough at any age never mind fifty.”

The latter point prompted Steen Tinning to point out that Jimenez is “sneaky fit“. “Trust me,” said the Dane. “We all know about the red wine and the cigars, but he does his stuff in the fitness centre. He might not look fit, but he is.”

What amazes the world of golf is that the Malaga native’s early career gave no hint at what was to come. Roger Chapman remembers his entrance in the early-1990s: “He was a good player, but he was just that – another good Spanish player and there are lots of them. Not many achieve what he has done.”

So what turned a solid tour pro into a multiple winner with four Ryder Cup appearances? Perhaps the Ryder Cup holds the key because in 1997 many in the sport raised eyebrows when Seve Ballesteros made Jimenez a vice-captain.

He not only helped the team to victory, but was inspired by the experience to become an actor in the production rather than a scene shifter, something Montgomerie appreciates more than most: “I captained the team in 2010 and when we were struggling in the final day singles Miguel came up trumps for me. He was the oldest player in a team of major winners. He’s very good. Very few people improve in their 40s, but he’s one.”

The Ryder Cup remains a motivation. After victory in Hong Kong he was asked about his future on the Senior Tour and said: “If I play the way I am playing this week I will be in the Ryder Cup. I would love to be part of the team again.”

If he does gain selection he will become Europe’s oldest ever Ryder Cup performer. If not the Senior Tour players, currently practising on the Legends course ahead of Friday’s first round, have red wine ready and waiting for him.

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Win a bottle of wine – share photos on Instagram or Twitter

If you’re attending the MCB Tour Championship this year, and staying at Constance Belle Mare Plage or Le Prince Maurice, share your photos of the event on Instagram and Twitter using #constancehotels and you could win a bottle of wine.

Links golf course

Share your golf event photos on Instagram & Twitter

From Wednesday 11 December to Sunday 15 December, we’ll choose one winner a day from the photos that have been shared – if your photo is chosen, you’ll win a bottle of wine to enjoy during dinner at your hotel, whether you’re staying at Constance Belle Mare Plage or Le Prince Maurice.

Winners will be announced daily on our Facebook page and Twitter.

We’ll also repost a selection of our favourite photos onto our Constance Hotels & Resorts Instagram feed from those that have been shared during the week using #constancehotels. Please read the competition Terms and conditions before entering.

MCB Tour Championship 2013

The MCB Tour Championship is being played on the beautiful Legend course at Constance Belle Mare Plage from 9-15 December.

Follow the action

Golf journalist Matt Cooper is reporting on all the action here on our blog and on the MCB Tournament website

Visit us on Instagram for photos from the event – #mcbgolf, #constancehotels – or on Twitter @constancehotels.

 

How the top golfers have played in the European Senior Tour season so far

Players have been arriving at Constance Belle Mare Plage over the last few days, in readiness for the conclusion of the 2013 European Senior Tour season.

The MCB Tour Championship, which is staged at the resort’s Legends GC, will be the 16th event of the year. Here’s the story of the Road to Mauritius:

The headliner is England’s Paul Wesselingh, who was Rookie of the Year in 2012, and currently leads the Order of Merit after three stunning victories in his second year. He started off with a five-shot win in the ISPS HANDA PGA Seniors Championship in June, added the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open in July and snatched top spot in the money list with victory in last month’s Fubon Senior Open in Taiwan.

Fellow Englishman Simon P Brown has bagged two wins. His first, the Russian Open Senior Golf Championship, came after he recorded a bogey, double bogey and three birdies in a wild final five holes. If that win was rollercoaster-like, his second was an armchair ride, with the final day of the Dutch Senior Open being washed out and Brown crowned champion watching the rain fall in the clubhouse.

Steen Tinning leads Brown in the race to become Rookie of the Year, following victories in the Berenberg Masters in Koln (when he broke the hearts of the locals to defeat Bernhard Langer) and the English Senior Open. The Dane has also competed in this year’s European Ironman Championship, proving the adage that you’re only as old as you feel.

Poolside tee off - Colin Montgomerie entertains the crowds at Constance Belle Mare Plage

Poolside tee off – Colin Montgomerie entertains the crowds at Constance Belle Mare Plage

The majors have been a curious affair. American Kenny Perry made a habit of throwing away major championship wins on the main tour and did so again in May’s US Senior PGA Championship. That allowed the wonderfully named Kohki Idoki to become Japan’s first ever winner of a male major championship.

Perry made amends in June, claiming the US Senior Open Championship, before the Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex witnessed the most remarkable finish of the year. Unheralded American Mark Wiebe defeated Bernhard Langer in a bizarre play-off at Royal Birkdale which started in the dark, was halted in pitch dark and was concluded early next morning.

Of all those mentioned above only Wesselingh had previously claimed victory on this tour and the pattern of maiden winners continued all year. England’s Philip Golding denied home favourite Ian Woosnam in the Speedy Services Wales Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl (host of next year’s Senior Open) and Spain’s Santiago Luna, who once famously defeated Tiger Woods at St Andrews, returned to the old town and left with the SSE Scottish Senior Open trophy.

But the most noteworthy of all was Colin Montgomerie’s first senior win in the Travis Perkins plc Senior Open. Playing on one of his favourite courses, the Duke’s at Woburn, he cruised to a six-shot victory.

There were comeback wins for Gordon Brand Jr in the WINSTONgolf Senior Open (his first for three years) and Australian Peter Fowler in the French Riviera Masters (who hadn’t won since claiming the 2011 Order of Merit).

To launch the week the leading performers hit balls from the poolside at Belle Mare Plage towards the island out at sea. Colin Montgomerie entertained the assembled crowd and they’re hoping he’ll be doing the same in the main event which starts on Friday. Follow #MCBGolf on social media to find out more.

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Who are the top contenders at MCB Tour Championship 2013?

Golf journalist Matt Cooper reports on the forthcoming MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius

The MCB Tour Championship, held at The Legend, Constance Belle Mare Plage

The MCB Tour Championship, held at The Legend, Constance Belle Mare Plage

It may not be branded quite as obviously as the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but the conclusion of the Senior Tour has its own version of a yellow brick road and a destination every bit as thrilling at the main tour. The aim for the seniors is to make the season’s final hurrah in Mauritius – at Constance Belle Mare Plage for the MCB Tour Championship.

It’s an event which seals the deal for 2013. After three days of competition on the Legends course the elite field will have been separated and we will know not only the identity of the tournament champion, but the Order of Merit winner and Rookie of the Year will have been crowned too.

In the last three years the trophy has twice been lifted by South Africa’s David Frost, either side of a win by American Tom Lehman. Both men are major championship winners, proof that the cream rises to the top in this event and that’s good news for Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, who has been a new addition to the senior ranks in 2013.

Known to golf fans across the globe as Monty, he completed 31 victories on the European Tour (only three men have ever earned more) and he wasted little time adding a first senior win, claiming the Travis Perkins Masters at Woburn during the summer, only his third start on the Senior Tour.

The 50-year-old Scot has become a regular member of the Sky Sports commentary team in recent years, but he retains a fierce competitive spirit and has joined the senior ranks with specific aims. Unlike Frost and Lehman he famously never won a major title, but he intends to correct that in the senior versions of those events.

With that in mind he is keen to end the year with another win, as will his fellow Ryder Cup captains Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam who join him in the field alongside the reigning champion Frost.

In my time as a golf journalist I’ve been to many countries (from Finland to Turkey and Tenerife to Kazakhstan), but this will be my first visit to Mauritius and I’m buoyed by its reputation on tour as one of the best of the year. No-one seems quite sure what to rave about first – the golf course, the hotel, the location or the food.

They also look back to those past winners and remember one of golf’s oldest adages: quality venues reap quality winners. Follow #MCBGolf on social media to see if the trend continues.

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Read more from Matt on Twitter @MattCooperGolf or visit the blog Curious About Golf

 

Paul Wesselingh tops Order of Merit with Taiwan win

With only the MCB Tour Championship left to play, Paul Wesselingh has moved to the top of the European Senior Tour Order of Merit following a win at the Fubon Senior Open in Taiwan.

Paul Wesselingh

Paul Wesselingh

The Englishman has pushed Denmark’s Steen Tinning into second place in the Order of Merit, promising to make the fight for the coveted John Jacobs Trophy at the MCB Championship a dramatic one.

The MCB Tour Championship is held at Constance Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius in December and its prize fund of €400,000 could make the crucial difference in deciding which player gets to raise the trophy.

Wesselingh is reported as saying, ‘It’s great to be back on top of the Order of Merit with a nice lead. It’s going to be between me and Steen to win. I love to play in Mauritius and it’s going to be a very exciting event.’

Wesslingh won the Fubon Senior Open at the Miramar Golf and Country Club in Taiwan with a one shot victory over home favourite Le Wen-the.

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