A stunning run of six consecutive birdies helped Colin Montgomerie surge into a commanding lead as the Scot searches for his maiden European Senior Tour win at the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters.
After trailing by one overnight, Montgomerie looked in imperious form in signing for a second superb 68 in a row to move three clear of two-time Senior Masters champion Carl Mason on eight under par, while Scotland’s Ross Drummond is a shot further back with 18 holes to play at Woburn Golf Club.
There were deceptive conditions for the second day’s play, with blanket blue skies and glorious sunshine belying a swirling Woburn wind and a fast and firm Duke’s Course that saw scoring conditions difficult and only ten men finish under par by close of play on Saturday.
But Montgomerie, this week making just his third appearance on the Senior Tour and chasing his first professional victory since the 2007 European Open, seemingly revelled in the challenge, bouncing back from an opening bogey at the par five first with six straight pars.
It was at the par four eighth, though, that his round caught fire, holing a 30-foot birdie putt to kick-start a run of six birdies in succession in what was a true masterclass in iron-play.
Montgomerie two-putted for a birdie at the long 11th but besides that the eight-time European Number One’s gains at the ninth, tenth, 12th and 13th holes all came after hitting his approaches to three feet or closer.
“I didn’t really have to make one putt in that run after holing that long one at the eighth,” said Montgomerie, who made a second bogey of the day at the 14th before parring his way in.
“So my irons are good, it’s just a question of getting into the right positions and then trying to take advantage. The fairways have firmed up a lot in the last few days and when that happens this course becomes difficult so it’s a question of managing your way around.
“It would mean an awful lot to win tomorrow,” he continued. “I haven’t won for a long time, six years, so it would be very special if I can go on and complete the job.”
The leader also took time out to send his best wishes to the hospitalised Bernard Gallacher, who captained Montgomerie in his first three appearances in The Ryder Cup.
He said: “All we can do, as everybody will, is wish him well. Our thoughts go out to him and his family and let’s hope he makes a speedy recovery.”
Mason, who won this event in 2006 and 2007, birdied three of the four par fives en route to a three under par 69 to finish three shots behind Montgomerie heading into the final round.
If the 60 year old were to triumph on Sunday then the Senior Masters would become the fourth Senior Tour event that Mason has won three times after the English Senior Open, the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship and the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open.
“I drove the ball beautifully today so I’m very pleased,” said 25-time Senior Tour winner Mason. “I managed to stay out of trouble and that is very important around here, it’s a real test of golf.
“It’s a deceptive course, it’s not one of those that is going to get eaten up – it never happens.
“If I can play like that again tomorrow then I will give myself a real chance.”
Drummond, meanwhile, briefly led earlier on Saturday after two birdies in his first six holes before his compatriot Montgomerie set off on his remarkable birdie run.
The 56 year old Prestwick man, who is still searching for a first title despite a highly consistent six seasons on the Senior Tour, found a third gain of the day at the long 11th but a three-putt at the last saw Drummond slip out of the tie for second as he signed for a two under par 70.
“It was quite testing today in the wind,” said Drummond, who finished tied fifth at Woburn in 2012. “I probably didn’t play quite as well as yesterday and I had some good bits of scrambling to keep the round together so it’s a case of so-far so-good.”
Overnight leader Luis Carbonetti struggled somewhat in the breezy conditions, posting a two over par 74 to finish the day in a tie for fourth place alongside Spain’s Miguel Angel Martin on three under par.