Miguel Angel Martin fired a six under par 66 to establish a one stroke lead in the opening round of the MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius, as Paul Wesselingh strengthened his grip on the European Senior Tour Order of Merit.
Wesselingh birdied the final two holes at Constance Belle Mare Plage for a round of 67 to join Roger Chapman, the man he is hoping to succeed as the Senior Tour’s Number One, on five under par, one shot behind pacesetter Martin.
With Denmark’s Steen Tinning, who needs to win the season-ending event and hope that Wesselingh is outside the top seven, finishing a further four shots back following a round of 71, Wesselingh has a clear advantage in the battle for the John Jacobs Trophy.
“It was a nice to play with Steen as it was the first time we played together this year,” said Wesselingh. “He got a bit of a lead early on and then we drew level and Steen had a bit of bad luck on the 14th there when he made a double bogey, and that meant I got a bit ahead. I had a nice round though and I’m very happy.”
Wesselingh will be hoping to emulate Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who sealed the top spot on The European Tour by winning the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, but he has Martin in his way after the Spaniard produced a fine putting display over the Legend Course.
Martin birdied three of the opening four holes and picked up further shots on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 18th holes, with his only bogey of the day coming on the 16th hole.
After four top five finishes so far in 2013, Martin will be hoping to finally land his maiden Senior Tour title, but headed straight to the range after his round to work on improving his iron play.
“From the tee I hit it pretty well, mostly finding the fairway, but my irons were no good today,” said Martin. “I struggled with them, but thankfully my putter was very good.
“I missed at least three or four shots with my irons today, which is not usual for me. Except for the irons, I’m playing very well.
“I’ve been on the leaderboard quite a bit this year but every time someone comes from behind and takes the money. You never know, this could be my week. This is the last chance this year, so I’m trying my hardest.
“I’m lying fifth on the Order of Merit, behind four very good players, so it has been a good year and all I’m missing is that win.”
Chapman lifted the John Jacobs Trophy in Mauritius 12 months ago following a dream 2012 season in which he won both the US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid and the US Senior Open.
He has struggled to follow up that success so far this season, playing on the US Champions Tour, but he is hoping to end a frustrating campaign on a high note.
“This year has been a difficult one and I’ve not played particularly well,” he said. “You lose a lot of confidence and I drove the ball terribly in the middle part of the year. Towards the end of the year I started getting it back a bit.
“This is not a course to come to if you are struggling with the driver but I felt confident out there today. I think I set my standards a bit too high after last year. When you don’t achieve you get down on yourself.”
Colin Montgomerie is also in contention on his first appearance at Constance Belle Mare Plage following an opening round of 70, but it could have been much better for the 2010 European Ryder Cup Captain.
The Scot had set a blistering early pace, reaching the turn in five under par 31, but he faded on the back nine when he followed a bogey on the 13th with a double bogey on the 14th.
He then missed an eight foot birdie chance on the 17th before pushing a four foot birdie putt wide on the last hole. Montgomerie, who won his maiden Senior Tour title in the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters, is in a six-way share of seventh place, alongside defending champion David Frost of South African.