Monday 23 October 2017

Walton faces Major test of senior status

Philip Waltor. Photo: Getty Images
Philip Waltor. Photo: Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

PHILIP WALTON is the new kid on the block as he makes his debut in the star-studded €1.65m Senior British Open at Turnberry today.

Walton, who turned 50 on March 28, has a five-year exemption on the European Seniors circuit from his regular Tour career, which included his central role in the 1995 Ryder Cup success at Oak Hill.

The Malahide native lost his Tour card in 2005 and has spent the last seven years tipping away on the home Irish Region PGA series while awaiting the chance to engage with the over-50s on the international scene.

So far it has been a learning curve, although he said "It's a great second chance for me" prior to his Seniors debut in the US Senior Open in Michigan in May.

Walton missed the cut and since then has played in five events on the European Seniors Tour, with his best finish being 29th in the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship.

Walton is joined in the Irish contingent at Turnberry by Des Smyth -- who was runner-up to Tom Watson in the Seniors Open in 2005 -- Eamonn Darcy and Denis O'Sullivan.

Mark McNulty, who has Irish citizenship but lives in England and America, is also in the field.

Watson will always be remembered for his famous 'Duel in the Sun' with Jack Nicklaus on the Ailsa Course in the British Open of 1977 when the two superstars were at the peak of their powers.

And Watson came agonisingly close to making history at Turnberry in the 2009 British Open when, at the age of 59, he came to the 72nd hole needing a par to become the oldest winner of the tournament.

However, a bogey at the last forced him into a play-off with Stewart Cink, which the American won, and Watson admitted that it was very painful to come so close to making history and miss out.

But he's back in Scotland this week seeking his fourth Senior Open title and is competitive as ever.

The field is littered with Major winners -- both 'regular' and Senior -- and with Ryder Cup players and great names of yesteryear, including Greg Norman, Gary Player, Ian Woosnam, Tony Jacklin and Bernhard Langer.

Mark Calcavecchia, a top-10 finisher in the British Open last weekend, can expect to be in contention, while Fred Couples makes his Senior Open debut.

The man in form is England's Roger Chapman, who has already won two Senior Majors this year -- the US Senior PGA and the US Senior Open and he's hoping to make it a hat-trick, but Turnberry will offer a stern test.

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