A year on from their remarkable tussle at Royal Birkdale, Mark Wiebe and Bernhard Langer (pictured by Getty Images) will be reunited in Wales this week as the country hosts its first Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex.
The pair memorably battled it out in near darkness 12 months ago before Wiebe eventually prevailed in the first Monday finish in the history of the prestigious Championship.
Now they have been drawn alongside each other – and Spanish debutant Miguel Angel Jiménez – for the opening two rounds at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, and Wiebe is hoping a return to links golf can inspire him to a successful defence of his title.
Despite struggling with injury since his win, Wiebe admits he has thoroughly enjoyed his year as Senior Open champion and is looking forward to taking on a new course in Royal Porthcawl, which becomes the 12th different venue – and first in Wales – to host The Senior Open Championship.
“I think I celebrated for a few months,” he said. “It was the thrill of a lifetime for a golfer to win a Senior Open. Playing back to back weeks, with The Open last week, I’m kind of living in heaven right now. This kind of golf is inspiring, so I hope I play inspired golf this week.”
He added: “Miguel has won his first tournament as a senior and we all know what he’s done, and he continues to play wonderful golf at 50,” he said. “He’s kind of a timeless player, isn’t he? He never plays like he’s older. The only thing that comes across to me for him is he’s older so he’s wiser and he’s more experienced. But I think he plays like a young man.
“Bernie is a wonderful man and obviously an incredible golfer and I’m honoured to play with both of them to tell you the truth. That’s a great pairing. I don’t know who I would pick that would be a better pairing than that.”
Langer, who won The Senior Open at Carnoustie in 2010, is also hoping to draw some inspiration from the picturesque Royal Porthcawl, having claimed his maiden European Tour title on Welsh soil in 1980.
“Winning is always fun no matter where, but it certainly would be a unique thing to have won here (in Wales) in 1980 and then win 34 years later again,” said the two-time Masters Champion. I will try my best and find out what happens.
“This year has been extremely good so far,” he added. “I don’t know what’s going on but I’ve been fairly consistent throughout my life. But this year has been a great start. I won the very first tournament of the year (on the US Champions Tour) and continued to finish second and third and then won another one and won a Major. Except for one tournament, I think I was in the Top 10 in all of the others.
“So that’s very, very solid play and I hope that will continue for a while. It’s certainly a lot of fun to be in contention.”
Source: European Tour