By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
at Moscow Country Club
A superb display of scrambling golf kept England’s Simon P Brown bogey-free through 36 holes and one shot clear of the field as he attempts to become the latest first-time Senior Tour winner at the Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior).
The 50 year old got up and down for par four holes in a row from the ninth while three birdies coming in saw the Qualifying School graduate claim a narrow lead over Spain’s Miguel Angel Martin (69) and Dane Steen Tinning (68).
But lurking one shot further back on eight under par following an excellent 67 is Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, this week looking to capture a second victory in successive starts after his triumph at Woburn two weeks ago.
On a damp, autumnal day at Moscow Country Club, rookie Brown started solidly enough with six pars and a birdie in his first seven holes before the fun started around the turn.
Four consecutive missed greens from the ninth forced Germany-based Brown to show a deft short game but, having gotten up and down successfully at each to save par, he found birdies at the 13th, 15th and 17th holes to remain flawless through 36 and top of the pile with one round to come.
“That run really kept the momentum going,” said Brown, who finished runner-up at the Qualifying School in January to seize his 2013 card. “I was playing nicely but just got a little off on my approaches in that period so to keep it together was pleasing.
“And then I went down the next hole (the 13th) and made birdie so that kicked me on and I managed to finish strong.
Out of the ten events thus far on the 2013 Senior Tour schedule, six have been claimed by first-time winners, while three of the last four have been won by rookies in Tinning (Berenberg Masters), Santiago Luna (SSE Scottish Senior Open) and Montgomerie (Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters), but Brown said he was not going to overthink his chances of joining that club with one round to come.
“I can’t control what others do but I’ll just stick to my own game,” he continued. “I’m not a bomber, I plot my way around so I’ll just try to do the same and not get too overexcited.”
Martin had held a share of first place overnight and he quickly moved into a three-shot lead earlier on Saturday thanks to a front nine of 32 which included a hat-trick of gains from the sixth.
But after overshooting the green at the short 11th, a mistake which led to a double bogey five, numerous birdie putts refused to drop except at the par five 17th and the Madrid man had to settle for a 69 and share of second place.
He said: “I actually played much better than yesterday. There was only the one hole where I just picked the wrong club and that was my only mistake of the day.
“I was putting for birdie on every hole after that and only managed to make one of them. But hopefully I can play like that tomorrow but with some better putting and we’ll see where that gets us.”
It was Groundhog Day for Tinning, meanwhile, as for the second round running he struggled at the start before firing five birdies in a back nine 31 to get within one of the lead.
Despite admitting to somewhat of a psychological battle with himself on Saturday, the man renowned for his ironman stamina remained strong.
“I’m a person who thinks a lot,” he said. “And today not all of those thoughts were constructive so I had to fight that and try to remain positive.
“I was just thinking, ‘shoot below par on the back nine’ and to end up with a 68, well, that’s Christmas!”
There were six birdies and just the one dropped shot for Montgomerie, to move seven places up the leaderboard on Moving Day into a share of fourth place as he looks to become the first Senior Tour rookie to win twice since Boonchu Ruangkit in 2010.
He reflected: “I’m in contention and that’s what I wanted, to give myself another chance. I didn’t play all that well today, and there is lots of room for improvement, but in a way it is quite satisfying to not play my best golf yet still find a 67 to be in with a shot again.”