David J Russell will take a commanding four stroke lead into the final round of The De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship as he attempts to finally land his maiden European Senior Tour title.
Russell has finished runner up on nine occasions in seven seasons on the Senior Tour, including to Sam Torrance in the 2005 PGA Seniors Championship, but a two under par third round of 70 has put him in pole position to break his duck.
The Englishman is eight under par for the Championship, four shots clear of South African Chris Williams, who posted a level par 72. Five players are in a share of third place on two under par including Ireland’s Des Smyth who, like Russell, was an Assistant Captain to Ian Woosnam in The 2006 Ryder Cup.
After starting the day with a two stroke advantage, Russell had been on course to establish an even more commanding lead after reaching ten under par courtesy of five birdies in his opening 11 holes.
However the 56 year old dropped shots on the 14th and 17th holes on the way back as the wind began to swirl around The Hunting Course at De Vere Slaley Hall in Northumberland. Nevertheless, with his rivals also struggling on the back nine, Russell will begin the final round as clear favourite to become the sixth first time winner on the Senior Tour in 2010.
“I’m delighted with that lead,” he said. “It is a very demanding golf course and there is a lot to think about. You just try to survive and get pars. Today, in a way, I was a little bit lucky and hit some good shots and got some birdies.
“I got off to a great start. I was a bit fortunate on the third to hole a bunker shot which helped me. I played solidly though. I was delighted to break par – anytime you do that round here you’ve played well.”
Russell, who won two European Tour titles, admitted it would be a relief to finally land a maiden Senior Tour victory on his 113th attempt.
“I’ve just got to deal with myself tomorrow,” he said. “If I can play the way I have been playing then I should be alright unless somebody goes daft. It’s not a golf course you can really do that on though.
“It would be lovely to get the monkey of nine second places off my back. The last three years I’ve played so badly that winning a tournament wasn’t even entering my mind, so it’s nice to get back into contention and start playing better.”
More commonly known as DJ, Russell has his 27 year old son Chris, who is also a professional, on the bag this week which he feels is helping his game.
“Chris is a professional on the Tartan Tour but they have been struggling a little bit with the recession so he is caddying for me for six weeks, which this is the third week of,” he said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity having him on the bag – it’s nice to have your 27 year old son with you on the course and have a young pair of eyes reading the lines and picking the right clubs for me.”
Williams will also go into Sunday’s final round looking to end a run of second place finishes, having finished joint runner up on his Senior Tour debut in last year’s De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship and also in last week’s Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open.
Paraguay’s Angel Franco, who tied with Williams last year behind winner Carl Mason, is one of those in a share of third place with Smyth, as is Ross Drummond who has been in contention in each of the last two Senior Tour events.
Former Ryder Cup player Gordon Brand Jnr, who lost in a play-off to Gordon J Brand on his debut in 2008, shot the lowest round of the day – a three under par 69 – to move into a share of eighth place on level par. He is joined by Senior Tour debutant Barry Lane (72), Bertus Smit (71) and former World Number One Ian Woosnam (73).
Sandy Lyle, the former Masters and Open Champion, is four over par along with defending champion Mason and former Ryder Cup Captain Sam Torrance.