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The race for the season-long MCB Road to Mauritius rankings title goes right down to the wire this week in Mauritius with Peter Baker and Adilson da Silva, who have won seven times between them this season, fighting it out for supremacy.
Baker leads Da Silva by 264.2 points, with 675 points available to the winner. The Brazilian needs to finish at least alone in 3rd or in no more than a four-way tie for 2nd to have any chance of topping the standings. Baker knows a top-2 finish will guarantee he remains at the summit whatever his challenger does.
Former Ryder Cup player Baker has three wins this year – a magnificent seven-shot triumph at the Irish Legends, an impressive performance against visiting Champions Tour players at the JCB Championship and victory at the flagship Staysure PGA Seniors Championship. The 56-year-old also has two runners-up finishes and four more top-7s.
“It’s been an absolutely fantastic year for me,” said the former Ryder Cup player. “I didn’t really expect to put myself in the position that I’m in, really. I’ve played the game for a long time, I’m 56 and this is all new to me. It’s brilliant. I’m really looking forward to the week, it’s probably going to be a bit more intense than it usually is. But I just want to go out there, try and play my best stuff and hopefully end up in the best position.
“I never even thought about being in this position at the start of the year, so it’s really special to have a chance to do it and hopefully I can play well and keep that spot. I’d be absolutely delighted. I’m not going to get many more chances at it, let’s put it that way. It would be wonderful to do it, and look really nice next to the other trophies I’ve got this year.”
Da Silva, who was last year’s Barry Lane Rookie of the Year, has earned the nickname ‘the King of the Jungle’ with four wins on tree-lined courses – the Riegler and Partner Legends, the Swiss Senior Open, the WCM Legends Open de France and the Vinpearl DIC Legends Vietnam. He knew he needed at least a top-5 in Vietnam last week to extend the race to the final event of the season and the win has given him an excellent chance on a course that is very similar to those where he’s claimed trophies.
“The course is playing absolutely beautifully out there, so we have no excuse for not playing well,” said the Brazilian, who finished tied-4th here last year. “I’ve been putting well and I’ve been hitting the ball well off the tee. That’s the key this week – tee shots and putting are very important.
“This is a very important week for me. I need to try and keep doing what I’ve been doing the whole year and stay patient and not get ahead of myself. The last couple of days I’ve been working mentally to stay in the present and not think too much about what’s going on, because it means a lot for me to win the MCB Road to Mauritius. It’s such a huge honour and has such huge benefits. I’m going to stay focussed and just hit one shot at a time.”
Former Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn is back to defend his title having romped to a seven-shot victory at -20 12 months ago. The Dane, who won 15 times on the DP World Tour, shot brilliant rounds of 68-61-67, with James Kingston and Simon P Brown finishing in tied-2nd and Adilson da Silva and 2018 winner Clark Dennis in tied-4th.
“It was a pretty special week,” the Dane said of last year. “I hadn’t really played that much coming into it, so I didn’t have that many expectations. And then somehow I landed on my on a 61 on Saturday, and that kind of set me up nicely for the last round. When you get to places like this, you get inspired. It’s a wonderful resort and a wonderful golf course.”
He knows he will have to bring his A game this week to defend his title: “You’ve got to go out and play well. In this field, there’s a lot of good golfers and a lot of guys who can play well, so you’ve got to get off to a good start. The one thing the rest of us is hoping for is that to the two of them (Baker and Da Silva) get in the way of each other and give us a chance.”
The Barry Lane Rookie of the Year award is also up for grabs this week, with Greig Hutcheon, Patrik Sjoland and Greg Owen in contention. Hutcheon, who has two runners-up finishes this year, is 6th on the MCB Road to Mauritius, 121.5 points ahead of Sjoland in 11th and 399 points clear of Owen in 17th. The Swede, who won the Farmfood European Senior Masters in early November, needs at least a top-8, and Owen requires a win or 2nd on his own for a chance to earn the prestigious title.
The Legend Course at Constance Belle Mare Plage is a par 72 that measures 6,614 yards. The fairways are flanked by trees and striking volcanic rock formations, with water coming into play on 13 holes, so there’s a premium on strategy and accuracy. The closing stretch features two pars-4s of under 400 yards at 15 and 16, a par-3 surrounded by water and bunkers at 17 and a reachable par-5 to finish, so there’s plenty of opportunity for volatility late in the round.
The field is 48 players, with a fantastic $1 million total purse and a $100,000 bonus pool to be shared between the top five in the MCB Road to Mauritius at the conclusion of the tournament.
Visit www.legendstour.com to see the full list of tee times, keep up to date with the leaderboard and find out more about the MCB Tour Championship – Mauritius at the Constance Belle Mare Plage.