South Africa’s John Bland is in pole position to end three years of heartache and win the Senior British Open, presented by MasterCard for the first time.
The South African came into this year’s event having finished second in each of his previous three appearances but could well go one better after recording rounds of 68 and 69 over Royal Co Down for a five under par two round aggregate of 137.
Bland goes into the third round one shot ahead of America’s David Oakley, who added a 68 to his opening 70, and New Zealand’s Bob Charles, who is in sight of winning his third Senior British Open after carding his second successive two under par 69.
Australia’s Ian Stanley and England’s John Morgan share fourth place after rounds of 69 and 70 put them on 139 and Scotland’s Russell Weir marked his debut on the European SeniorsTour with a sparkling four under par 67 that saw him move up into a share of sixth place alongside Bernard Gallacher, Brian Huggett and Simon Owen.
Weir recorded three twos and a total of eight birdies in his 67 but round of the day came from Canada’s Al Balding who beat his age by six shots with a level par 71 that saw him make the cut with two shots to spare on 147.
The former Canadian World Cup player opened with a five over par 76 but shaved five shots off that score with a round that included birdies on the first, second and 12th holes.
Meanwhile Jack Nicklaus kept his dream of winning his first British Seniors Open title alive after a battling 72 left him five shots behind the leader but there was no such luck for some of the championship’s other big names with both England’s Tony Jacklin and America’s Arnold Palmer missing the cut with something to spare.
Jacklin recorded rounds of 83 and 75 to finish on 15 over par 157 and Palmer was two shots back despite a spirited comeback over his closing nine holes.
Palmer improved nine shots on his opening 84 with a 75 that included an inward nine of two under par 34 but left Newcastle Co. Down ruing what had gone before.
“I suppose the only thing I can say positive is that this tournament started 27 holes too late,” he said. “If it had started at the tenth we might at least have something to show for all the effort but sadly that wasn’t the case.
“With all the adulation has to come some humiliation and I experienced that yesterday,” he added.