England’s Matt Briggs and Scotland’s Andrew Oldcorn took advantage of more benign playing conditions to open up a one shot advantage on the second day of the De Vere Club PGA Seniors Championship.
Oldcorn, still searching for his maiden Senior Tour title after recording his second runner-up finish at last week’s ISPS Handa Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum, signed for a best-of-the-day round of 66 to move to five under par, one stroke clear of England’s Barry Lane.
The 51 year old from Edinburgh has finished inside the top 12 in all four or his appearances on the regular 2011 Senior Tour Schedule, but labelled his display at De Vere Slaley Hall in Hexham, England, the best of the current campaign.
Oldcorn said: “I just got into the zone today, and felt like I could birdie even the hard holes. The first day was a bit of a slog for us all really in the conditions. I was four over par after nine yesterday so I was up against it, but for the last 27 holes I’ve played really well.
“I’ve been playing well now for the last two or three weeks. My irons especially have improved, but so have all aspects of my game. I had my coach with me last week, and he spotted a few things. My iron play improved dramatically, and I ended up finishing second.
“Of course I want to get my first win on the Senior Tour under my belt – I’m not going to deny that. But for that to happen a lot of things have to go my way, so we’ll just wait and see what the next two days bring.
“I’m looking forward to the weekend, obviously it’s a little bit different for us being a four round event rather than a three round tournament. But I know I’m playing well, and I just hope we get some decent weather to make low scoring possible.”
Despite bogeying his last two holes, Briggs joined Oldcorn on five under par to continue a fine run of form which has taken even the man himself by surprise.
As on the opening day, Briggs had seemed destined to record a flawless round, only for two late blemishes to blot his copybook. But a round of 66 still kept him on course to contend for his first Senior Tour victory.
He said: “I’m as surprised as anyone to be leading the tournament. I had a bit of a sticky ending again, but overall I have to be delighted with how I’m playing, and the position I’m in. I wasn’t able to take advantage of the par fives today, which was a bit disappointing. But I managed to birdie a few of the tougher holes, including the eighth.
“It’s new territory for me to be up near the top of the leaderboard going into the weekend, so I’m quite looking forward to having a lie-in and going out a bit later. I’m sure I’ll have some nerves, but I’m also sure I’ll enjoy the experience.”
Briggs and Oldcorn will be joined in the final group by Englishman Barry Lane, who surged up the leaderboard with a stunning round of 67.
Lane is currently 13th on the Senior Tour Order of Merit, but will have high hopes of improving his position after five birdies and an eagle at the fourth hole moved him to four under par.
Lane said: “When I thinned my shot over the back of the green and made a bogey on my first hole, I didn’t think it was going to be the best of days! But after that blip I went on to play some very solid golf – my only other bogey was a three putt on the 18th. Holing my bunker shot for an eagle at the fourth was a big bonus, and parring the ninth was a great way to finish, because it’s a very tough hole.
“The conditions were slightly easier than yesterday in the first part of the round, but then it got much tougher when it started pouring down with rain, so it was all about keeping it in play and not making any silly mistakes. I rode my luck once or twice, but I probably deserved it after playing so well. I knew I had to go low today because when I started my round I was six off the lead, so to finish the day just one shot behind is very pleasing.”
Australian Noel Ratcliffe is currently in fourth place on three under par after mixing seven birdies and three bogeys in a round of 68.
The 66 year old from Sydney reached the turn in level par 36, but roared home in 32 strokes to move into contention to capture his ninth Senior Tour title.
He said: “My short game’s been very good for the past two days, and the pace of the greens suits me, which is why I had quite a few single putts. Conditions were perfect for scoring, although the club selection was tricky at times, because we’ve been used to having the wind to contend with so the stillness threw me a little bit!”
The English duo of Bob Cameron (71) and Kevin Spurgeon (69) are a further shot back on two under par alongside Australian Mike Harwood, who birdied the fiendishly tough 18th hole in a round of 70.
After carding rounds of 71 the Scottish duo of Gordon Brand Jnr and Sandy Lyle, currently second on the Order of Merit, share ninth place on one under par alongside record-breaking Englishman Carl Mason.