Surrey: After a chastening time in a rainswept British Open, Bernhard Langer will hope for better luck this week in the seniors version being held on a course that holds fond memories for the German great.
On the comeback trail after four months out following thumb surgery, Langer missed the cut at a wet and windy Royal St. George's last week when he finished on 8 over after two rounds.
Conditions should be more benign this week when he defends his Senior British Open at a tree-lined Walton Heath course, just south of London.
It was there that Langer made his Ryder Cup debut in 1981 against one of the strongest ever United States teams, which included multi-major winners Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino.
Langer would go on to play nine more teams in the Ryder Cup, winning five times, before leading Europe to success in 2004 as a non-playing captain.
"I was fortunate enough to play in a couple of European Opens at Walton Heath before making my first Ryder Cup appearance there in 1981 and I loved it straightaway," Langer said. "It's parkland, but with a links look and feel to it. I enjoy the heathland, the trees and the bunkering - all in all, it's a great inland course.
"I haven't been back for quite a number of years, so I'm very excited to defend my Senior Open title there. My Ryder Cup debut was obviously a memorable part of my life ... it was the start of my love affair with the Ryder Cup."
The 53-year-old Langer beat American Corey Pavin by a shot to win at Carnoustie last year and followed that up by landing the Senior U.S. Open, becoming the first player to capture back-to-back majors on the senior tour since Watson.
"To fly straight (from Carnoustie) to the west coast of America for the Senior U.S. Open, with an eight-hour time change, and manage to win was quite a ride," Langer recalled.
"It was a special two weeks in my career. Majors were elusive on the regular tour, so to win two senior majors in a row was a great feeling."
Watson is bidding for a record fourth Senior British Open title, after wins in 2003, '05 and '07, and will be in confident mood after claiming victory in the Senior U.S. PGA Championship last month.
He also played a starring role at Royal St. George's last week, hitting a hole-in-one and finishing tied for 22nd after showing a masterclass in how to play links golf in a third round affected by horizontal rainstorms and powerful winds.
"I didn't make a double bogey the entire week, and I had a hole-in-one. I'll remember that for a long time," Watson said.
Watson will play his first two rounds with England's Barry Lane and Zimbabwe's Nick Price, a former world No. 1 making his debut at the Senior British Open.
Family commitments have previously stopped Price attempting to become the fourth player - after Gary Player, Bob Charles and Watson - to win both the Open and the senior version.
"It's the one senior major you really want to win," said the 54-year-old Price. "It's not the Open Championship, but it is the next best thing for us guys."
Langer has been grouped with American John Cook and Scotland's Gordon Brand Jnr., while 1991 Masters champion Ian Woosnam is joined by Americans and fellow major winners Tom Kite and Pavin.