Mark Mouland is eyeing a second European Senior Tour title in as many years as the Welshman held steady atop the leaderboard going into the final day of the Benahavis Senior Masters after a two under par second round of 69.
It is sure to be an enthralling finale at La Quinta Golf and Country Club, in the Benahavis region of southern Spain, after a host of experienced champions made their case with low rounds, with Mike Harwood, Mark James, Carl Mason and Gary Wolstenholme all just one shot off the lead.
Mouland admitted his round was nothing spectacular as he dropped a shot on the par four fifth hole before a birdie three at the eighth took him to the turn on level par.
A 30 foot putt for birdie at the 12th hole took him under par before following up a birdie on the 14th and bogey on the 15th by converting another lengthy putt at the 16th and parring the final two holes to maintain his grip at the summit on nine under par.
“I just played steady really,” said the 51 year old, who claimed his maiden Senior Tour title at the Senior Open de Portugal last October. “It wasn’t as good as the first day. I didn’t knock it as close to the pins. I had plenty of chances after that but it was nothing spectacular at all really.
“I'm just happy to be still in the lead and I stuck in well. It could have been a 72 or 73 so I grinded away and perseverance paid off in the end. I'm looking forward to playing better tomorrow and obviously knowing I've done it before will help me.”
Mason is certainly a man who has done it before and he will be searching for a third Benahavis Senior Masters title in four years after a seven under par second round of 64.
A birdie got the defending champion’s second round off to a perfect start before a 25 foot putt rolled in for another on the fifth hole. He almost holed out with a sand wedge for an eagle on the par four seventh hole but settled for a birdie before another gained shot on the ninth meant he reached the turn in four under par.
He began the back nine as he did the front, with a birdie on the 10th, and a steady run in including birdies at the 14th and 15th left him right in with a shot for a 26th Senior Tour title.
“I saved myself a couple of times but generally it was nice to put in a good score and I played some good golf,” said the 58 year old.
“I was playing quite well on the first day but had a couple of silly three putts and luckily I knuckled down and got back to one under so that was a good feeling. I enjoy the course here, there’s something about it. It sets up to my eye and I feel quite comfortable.
“I've done it (won) here before but I'm just happy to have put in my first good round this year and we’ll go from there. Hopefully another good round tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”
Harwood, meanwhile, was out in front earlier in the day after negotiating the opening 14 holes in seven under par. A bogey on the 18th hole, however, meant the 53 year old carded a seven under par 64 but the Australian didn’t let that finish get him down.
“I probably hit my best drive all day on the 18th and it just crept into the fairway bunker but I'm not too disappointed,” said the five time European Tour winner.
“I didn’t play fantastically tee to green but I had a really good day on the greens. I have a fair bit of work to do if I'm going to do well tomorrow.”
He was joined later in the day by James, who finished tied runner up here last year, as the former Ryder Cup Captain carded a second successive four under par round of 67, thanks to a bogey-free back nine of 32 which included four birdies.
“I played a little better today than the first day,” said the two time Senior Tour winner. “It was a question of trying to settle down after a bad start and hoping something went my way. I holed a 15 footer for birdie at the fifth so that was nice.
“It might be windy tomorrow and there’s a bit of a logjam at the top. It’d be nice to win but it’s just to be finding a bit of form and I have a good stroke at the moment so I'm happy.”
Wolstenholme finished tied second alongside James at last year’s Benahavis Senior Masters and he will be chasing a second Senior Tour title in three weeks after he also carded a second successive 67 to join the four-way tie for second place.“I had a great start in the Mallorca Open Senior (where he won two weeks ago) and finished with three rounds in the 60s at the US Senior PGA Championship,” said last year’s Senior Tour Rookie of the Year.
“I'm just trying to do the good things well and try not to make any silly mistakes.
“If the wind blows like they say it will, that’ll make scoring tough tomorrow but if someone asked me if I would take another 67 I’d grab their hand off, sit in the clubhouse and if it’s not good enough, it’s just not. But I’ll just try to keep hitting one good shot after another.”Elsewhere, Frenchman Marc Farry broke Boonchu Ruangkit’s Senior Tour course record at La Quinta Golf and Country Club courtesy of a superb eight under par 63 which left him on three under par for the tournament, in tied 14th place.