Englishmen Mark James and Barry Lane and American Tim Thelen share pole position going into the final round of the Berenberg Bank Masters after a testing second round at the Cologne Golf und Land Club.
The trio all finished the demanding day – which featured a 95 minute delay for a thunder and lightning storm – on five under par 139. Lane produced the pick of the bunch with a battling 70 while James carded a level par 72 and first round leader Thelen posted 74.
Lane, who won the Scottish Senior Open in his rookie Senior season last year, had five birdies in total, a sterling effort considering he played with his left thumb heavily strapped due to injury.
“I’m having a problem with the tendon and the strapping is to try and keep a cap on it which is working so far,” he said. “It happened in Majorca a few weeks ago and I’ve been playing through the pain with it for the past three or four weeks including the PGA at Wentworth and in Wales.
“But I’ve decided I’m not going to play in Holland next week – I’m going to take a week off to see if I can try and sort it out properly. Looking ahead to tomorrow, I’m in a good position so we’ll give it a go and see what happens.”
James, back on the European Senior Tour for the foreseeable future, is eager to add to his two European Senior Tour titles to date but was honest enough to admit he will have to play better in the final round if that hope is to be realised.
“I scraped it round to be honest and really didn’t hole anything out there aside from a ten footer at the ninth to save my par,” said the man who captained Europe in The 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline. “Therefore to be in a tie for the lead after not playing too well is really pleasing and I am delighted to have given myself a chance for tomorrow. It’s all I could do.”
Completing the trio sharing pole position Thelen, in his first European Senior Tour appearance having turned 50 only five days ago, understandably struggled to match the fireworks of his opening 65, but is still in the hunt to become the first player since Mike Cunning in Brunei in 2009 to win a regular European Senior Tour event at his first attempt.
“Obviously not as good as yesterday but if I am to be honest, it could have been a lot worse,” admitted the Texan. “I really didn’t drive the ball well today and hardly hit any fairways so to get it round in 74 was not a bad effort.
“It is hard to follow up such a good round as the one I shot yesterday with another good one but conditions were a lot harder for everyone out there with the wind swirling round and also the disruption of having to come off the course for a while didn’t help. But I am still very much in the golf tournament.”
Two shots behind the leading pack were six players who ended their second round on three under par 141. Included in that number was the 2006 European Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam as well as South African Bertus Smit.
The 58 year old from Cape Town was the unlucky player in his three ball alongside Bill Longmuir and Woosnam, as he did not have time to finish out on the 18th green before the klaxon sounded at 4.45pm to get the players off the course.
The Scotman and the Welshman managed to complete their rounds but Smit, who won the 2009 Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open, did not get to his ball in time and had to wait for 95 minutes until play resumed at 6.20pm to attempt to hole his birdie putt from six feet.
Perhaps not surprisingly, he missed and had to settle for a par five on the 520 yard hole and a second round 70.
Completing the round-up of former Ryder Cup captains in action in one of the strongest fields in the European Tour season were the two players who finished on two under par 142, Scotland’s Sam Torrance (70) and tournament host Bernhard Langer (73).
“I actually hit the ball better than yesterday but I just didn’t hole any putts," said Langer. "I am going to try out a different putter now on the putting green before I go home tonight and see how that works. Not sure which one I will use in the final round tomorrow.
“It was a little disappointing to finish one over for the last three holes. One under would have been better to give me a slightly better chance for tomorrow. But it is what it is and three shots behind is not too bad. There are a lot of players between me and the leaders but if I can putt a little bit better tomorrow then you never know.”