Paul Wesselingh is ideally placed to retain his ISPS HANDA PGA Seniors Championship title after a three under par 70 on day three gave the defending champion an 11 under par aggregate total and a one shot lead over a trio of pursuers.
Wesselingh is clearly comfortable on De Vere Mottram Hall’s testing par 73 layout, having won the PGA North Region Championship there in 1994, and he braved a swirling wind on Saturday to lead by the slenderest of margins.
“The course is very tricky, it is very bouncy and I suppose that suits my style of play as I can be a bit of a plodder,” explained the Englishman.
“It is just a case of not trying to make any stupid mistakes, make a few birdies and hang on over that back nine.
“Overall I’m delighted with how I’m defending the title but I’m not really even thinking about it, I’m just going out and playing. I’m amazed I’m leading now, but I just plod my way around, get into my own little world and just get on with it.”
American Mike Cunning (70), England’s DJ Russell (71) and Ireland’s Des Smyth (73) currently share second place on 11 under par.
Arizona native Cunning will look to end a three year victory drought on Sunday, and add to the two previous titles he has won on the European Senior Tour.
After four birdies in the first 13 holes, Cunning had led on 12 under par but a couple of dropped shots coming in, at the 16th and 17th holes, proved costly as he fell a shot behind Wesselingh.
He said: “Overall I’m very pleased, as the last few holes are kind of tricky and the way the wind’s blowing, the 16th and 17th are pretty hard holes, so overall it’s still a very good day.
“The wind swirls around, although there’s not a lot of it, but what’s there makes a big difference on some of those holes, especially coming in.
“I didn’t know what to expect as this is my first event since December, and I had some health issues [severe neck injury] over the winter so I didn’t do anything for three months. I’m just happy to be playing again.”
Overnight leader Smyth had looked strong on the front nine, and spent much of the day either tied for the lead or out in front on his own.
However, another rollercoaster back side saw the Irishman counter two birdies with twice as many bogeys to finish one shot adrift with 18 holes remaining.
He said: “It was a real game of two halves for me today, I played beautifully on the front nine and was a bit unhappy and unlucky to be only two under par. But then on the back nine I played some scrappy stuff, to be honest, but at least I ended well with a birdie on the last.
“The back nine hasn’t been very kind to me so far this week, but tomorrow would definitely be a very good time to change that, so we’ll just give it our best shot and hope it’s good enough.”
Russell, continuing his recovery from a trapped nerve in his neck, joined Smyth and Cunning in a tie for third place on ten under par, whilst Senior Tour debutant José Manuel Carilles of Spain (72), Paraguay’s Angel Franco (70) and Dane Steen Tinning (67) are all one shot further back on nine under par.
Ian Woosnam will start the final round in a tie for eighth place on seven under par after a third round of 71, and the Welshman is determined to finish with a flourish.He said: “I’m swinging really well on the practice ground, I just can’t seem to let it go on the golf course for some reason, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow. I just need to go flat out.”