Gary Emerson returns to the scene of his only European Tour triumph this week when he tees it up in the Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior) at Moscow Country Club.
Ten years ago the 50 year old Englishman carded rounds of 71-65-68-68 en route to a 16 under par total and a two shot victory over Austria’s Markus Brier at the 2004 Russian Open.
He therefore has high hopes for his return to the Robert Trent Jones Jnr lay out as he attempts to bring about a transformation in his form.
“Coming back here brings back a lot of great memories,” said Emerson, who carded his only top ten of the season at the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship back in June. “I haven’t been scoring all that well over the last three weeks, but I have been hitting the ball well and I’d like to think that being back here will spur me on to better things.
“I remember I was two over par after the first nine holes of my first round ten years ago, but managed to get it round in 71 and then played really well over the weekend.
“Sunday was a long old day. We had to play 35 holes because we were rained out on the Saturday, but I carded a pair of 68s so that was very nice.
“It was playing long that week and it’s the same again this time. I’m told they have had a fair bit of rain over the last few weeks and you are certainly not getting much run on the ball. It’s going to be a very good test of golf.”
Emerson will join the rest of the 72 strong field who will go into the Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior) chasing Colin Montgomerie, who was tied fourth behind Simon P Brown over the same course 12 months ago, and has arrived in Moscow full of confidence after a magnificent ten stroke defence of his title at last week’s Travis Perkins Masters.
That latest triumph came on the back of a great summer for Montgomerie, who claimed his first two Senior Major titles at the US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid and the US Senior Open Championship.
The Scot also finished runner-up to Bernhard Langer at The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex, part of a run of results that has seen him become the first player to win more than €500,000 in an official season on the European Senior Tour.
Montgomerie gave a clinic to local youngsters prior to playing in the Wednesday Pro-Am, and was then the guest of honour at a press conference attended by Alexander Zhukov, 1st Deputy Chairman of the Russian Duma and President of the Russian Olympic Committee, before planning to head into central Moscow to visit the Kremlin.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said the victorious 2010 Ryder Cup Captain. “I grew up looking at pictures of Red Square and I’ve always wanted to see it in person. Alastair (McLean, the Scot’s caddie) and I are taking a car into town this afternoon. It will be a good way to relax before we get started in the morning.
“I’m looking forward to another good week. The course is in terrific condition but it’s playing very long. I didn’t have a great finish last year and I’d like to make up for that.”
Montgomerie, who went to college in America, will also have two of his former Houston Baptist University colleagues for company this week.
The Scot is used to playing alongside America’s Tim Thelen who has been a regular on the Senior Tour over the past couple of years, but this week the two alumni will be joined by Australia’s Glenn Joyner, who makes his European Senior Tour debut after turning 50 on Wednesday.
Joyner claimed the 11th card at the 2014 Senior Tour Qualifying School after eagling the par four 17th hole at Pestana Golf Resort, before curling in a ten foot left to right putt on the last to secure his place this season.
“I’ve been watching the clock for the last seven months since the Tour School so it’s good to get started at last,” said the former Asian Tour player, who finished in a tie for eighth place behind David Gilford in the 1991 NM English Open at The Belfry.
“I spent five years teaching at Yarra Yarra Golf Club in Melbourne and sleeping in my own bed but I have to admit it’s nice to get back on the road again. I was getting itchy feet. I always knew I wanted to come back and have a crack at the Senior Tour and now that I’m here I can’t wait to get started.
“I went to college with Colin and Tim in Houston. Colin and I arrived on the same day so there is a pretty strong bond there. I haven’t caught up a lot with him over the years but when we did it has always been good.
“It has been great watching at a distance as he’s risen to the top. He didn’t really practise much when he was at college but he was always a really good iron player.
“I’m not sure there has ever been anyone better with a six or seven iron in his hands. There has been no better player in Europe over the last few years. His record speaks for itself.”