Gordon Brand Jnr dropped five shots in the final four holes of his second round in the Van Lanschot Senior Open, but clung on to a one stroke lead after another demanding day in The Netherlands.
With strong winds once again making conditions extremely difficult at Royal Haagsche Golf & Country Club in The Hague, Brand Jnr carded a three over par 75 and will take a slender advantage into the final round, with eight players poised to strike just a single stroke back, including defending champion Des Smyth.
Former Ryder Cup player Brand Jnr, who was the only player to break par in similar conditions during the opening round, started his second round on the tenth hole with a two stroke overnight advantage and picked up an immediate birdie.
The Scot then bogeyed the 14th, but back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th hole gave him a four stroke lead over the field at the turn.
However, after picking up another birdie on the second hole, the 53 year old struggled on the way in, dropping shots on the fourth, sixth and eighth and ninth holes, as well as a double bogey six on the seventh when his drive lodged in a mound.
He finished on two over par 146 for the tournament, but with his nearest challengers also faltering in the afternoon groups, he remains on course or his first victory since capturing his maiden European Senior Tour title in the 2010 Matrix Jersey Classic.
“It was pretty similar to yesterday in that the wind wasn’t as strong early on but then got up and it caught me out a bit today to be honest,” he said. “I messed up on the seventh hole. It wasn’t a bad tee shot but it ended in the mound and I couldn’t move it. Then I messed up the finishing hole too with a stupid three putt.
“It was a bit frustrating really as I played really nicely again and holed some nice putts. I was flying along and then the wind just caught me out a bit. That’s going to happen though – you don’t hit that bad a shot and it is tough to up and down it.
“That double bogey on the seventh really stopped any momentum. The margins are so slim round here that you can get caught out and I did. I’m sure there are many stories like that today though.”
The eight-time European Tour winner has a strong record in The Hague, having fourth last year and tied fifth in the inaugural event in 2010, and he is confident of mounting another strong challenge on Sunday, with tee times delayed until 10am due to a forecast of heavy rain.
“It’s another day tomorrow and, while I’m disappointed I wasn’t a few shots better today, I like the course and hopefully I can do well,” he said.
Defending champion Smyth carded a one over par 73 and, like Brand Jnr, had a double bogey on his card after his ball ran off the 17th green and plugged in a bunker.
After carding a final round 65 last year to surge to a two stroke victory, the Irishman believes he is in a good position for a successful defence.
“The conditions were very difficult out there,” said Smyth. “It’s a great traditional old course, a bit like Birkdale, with these bushes dotted about and if you hit it off line you are in one. I think there are going to be lots of stories of ‘I almost did that’ from today in these conditions.
“I played well though. I could tell you all the sad stories but on the other hand I made some great saves which you have to do in these conditions. Overall I’m happy – I’d like to be a few shots better but last year I came from four shots back and ended up winning so I will feel as though I have a chance.
“I hope the wind eases a bit though because it was a real battle to save par, a little bit like the US Open last week. I tend to play quite well in the wind because I played a lot of links golf as a kid and I can switch into that mode.”
Smyth’s playing partner Spaniard Juan Quiros, who defeated him in a play-off last year to win the Cannes Mougins Masters, is also three over par after jumping 30 places up the leaderboard with an impressive round of 70.
Also in a share of second place is Andrew Oldcorn, who was runner up to George Ryall in 2010. The in-form Scot, who was also joint second behind Paul Wesselingh in the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship a fortnight ago, signed for a 74.
English pair John Gould (74) and John Harrison (73), Australian Mike Harwood (73), Zimbabwean Tony Johnstone (72) and Japan’s Massy Kuramoto are the other players tied for second on three over par 147.