Paul Wesselingh moved another step closer to sealing the top spot on the European Senior Tour Order of Merit in Mauritius after firing a superb six under par 66 to take a three stroke lead over Colin Montgomerie into the final round of the MCB Tour Championship.
The Englishman already has a €47,936 advantage over Steen Tinning in the contest for the John Jacobs Trophy, but he is firmly on course to make certain of finishing the season as Senior Tour Number One after an impressive back nine display in the second round at Constance Belle Mare Plage.
Wesselingh carded six birdies in total, including four on the trickier back nine of the Legend Course, to move to 11 under par 133, setting up an intriguing final round battle with 2010 European Ryder Cup Captain Montgomerie, who also posted a round of 66.
“I didn’t play very well on the front nine today, I was struggling a bit early on for some reason,” said Wesselingh. “But I hit 17 greens today and the only one I missed, the eighth, and I holed it from off the green with a putter and that actually got my round going.
“Then I went crazy on the back nine, with birdies on the 11th, 12th and 13th holes, and then made another on the last. I missed some putts too, so it could have been a stupid score. But I’m really happy and I’m really looking forward to playing with Monty tomorrow.
“We played together in Russia and I really enjoyed that. If you had said a two years ago that I’d be playing with him in the final round of the season with a chance of winning the tournament and the Order of Merit, I would have had to pinch myself.”
Wesselingh now has the chance to become the first player to win four times on the Senior Tour in a season since Boonchu Ruangkit in 2010, the year the Thai player also won the John Jacobs Trophy. He also has the opportunity to emulate Henrik Stenson, who confirmed his position as The European Tour’s Number One by winning the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai to lift both trophies.
“I’m trying not to think too much about it, but obviously it would be a nice way to do it,” he said. “A three-shot lead is nothing with Colin behind me. He loves the front nine so if I can keep on his shirt tail there, I seem to favour the back nine. It should be good fun.”
Montgomerie also produced a wonderful round of golf, reaching the turn in five under par 31 for a second consecutive day courtesy of three birdies in the first four holes and an eagle on the sixth, when he holed a 20 foot putt.
Having faltered on the back nine in the first round, when he followed a bogey on the 13th with a double bogey on the 14th, the Scot appeared to struggle a little in the heat once more, dropping his first shot of the day on the 15th hole when he missed the green to the left and failed to get up and down.
However he finished his round on a high with back-to-back birdies, holing consecutive putts from 20ft on the 17th and 18th holes to move to eight under par.
“It was great to have a two-four finish as I’ve not played the back nine very well at all,” he said. “I’ve played the front nine in two 31s, but I’m still two over on the back nine.
“Fatigue does play a factor at the end in this hear, undoubtedly, but the back nine does play tighter than the front too. Yesterday I lost concentration on the back nine and the three putt on the last when I had a 12 foot putt for eagle was crazy. But I’ve given myself a chance and that’s why I came here.
“If I played the back nine well tomorrow I have a decent chance, but Paul is playing particularly well. If I can get off to a flying start, the way I have the first two days, then I can put some pressure on him and we will see.
“Paul is trying to do a Henrik Stenson, and he is playing very well, but I’m here to stop him.”
With Wesselingh and Montgomerie pulling clear of the pack, 2012 Order of Merit winner Roger Chapman (72) and South African Hendrik Buhrmann (69) share third position on five under par, while five players are tied for fifth on four under par, including first round leader Miguel Angel Martin (74) and Marc Farry (69), who is attached to Constance and has his academy at the Legend Course.
Meanwhile Tinning, who needs to win the MCB Tour Championship to stand any chance of claiming the John Jacobs Trophy, began his second round promisingly enough, carding back-to-back birdies. However the Dane’s challenge, both in the tournament and the Order of Merit, was effectively extinguished when he ran up a double bogey six on the 15th hole en route to a one under par 71, which left him nine strokes back in a share of 15th position.