Tommy Horton raced to the head of the elite field in the Senior Tournament of Champions with a magnificent opening round of 65, seven under par, as his attempts to win the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit for a record fourth successive year.
The 58-year-old from Jersey, a winner of 22 events since joining the senior ranks in 1992, picked up six birdies and an eagle to open up a three shot lead in the grand finale to the 1999 Seniors Tour. His only blemish came on the tricky 17th where his tee-shot found the water and he could do no better than a bogey five. However his 65 equals the seniors course record at Buckinghamshire GC.
Horton currently occupies the number one spot having won twice this season, but he described his opening round here as “the best I’ve played all year”.
“I hit so many good shots,” he said. “I felt in the groove.”
American Jerry Bruner, Horton’s nearest rival, now needs a miracle if he is to claim the number one spot but a run of five birdies in six holes from the ninth kept him very much in contention.
Three shots off the lead are England’s Brian Waites and Scotland’s David Huish. Waites, back to his best after suffering from an asthma attack during the summer, shot a four under par 68 thanks to five birdies and an eagle on the par five 14th.
“I putted very soundly today,” said Waites. “Wins are a big bonus for a 59-year-old but this is the first time I’ve played the course well. I’m just looking to play nicely this week and finish the season on a high.”
Huish, with three runners-up finishes this season, needs to finish in the top three this week to qualify for the Praia D’El Rey Rover European Cup, the Ryder Cup-style match against the Ladies European Tour next month. Victory has eluded the North Berwick professional so far this season but five birdies and just the one bogey on the 16th after finding the bunker with his second shot, left him just three off the lead.
“I played well today,” said Huish. “It’s been a good season with a few top tens but I need to finish in the top three for the match against the ladies. It would also be nice to finish the season on a winning note – that’s what we’re all aiming for this week.”