Thursday, 01 August 2002
Australia's Mike Ferguson enjoyed a significant upturn in his fortunes when he fired a five under par 66 to open a one shot lead after the first round of the De Vere PGA Seniors Championship over the Nicklaus course at the De Vere Carden Park resort in Cheshire.

Ferguson, 50, the brother-in-law of the late US Open champion, Payne Stewart, opened with rounds of 72 and 71 at last week's Senior British Open, presented by MasterCard, held at the Royal County Down GC in Newcastle, Nothern Ireland, but then was faced with the ignominy of having to disqualify himself after realising he had signed for a wrong score in his second round.

Six days later, however, he encountered no such mishaps. Instead, he recorded a total of five birdies in a flawless round that left him one shot ahead of England's Tony Allen, Northern Ireland's David Jones and two other Australians, David Good and Noel Ratcliffe.

On a good day for the strong Australian contingent, big-hitting Geoff Parslow was tied for sixth place place alongside Scotland's John Chillas on 68 and Brian Jones shared eighth place with America's Bill Brask, England's Denis Durnian, Ireland's Liam Higgins and Welshman, Craig Defoy on 69.

Ferguson put his troubles in Northern Ireland behind him when went out in two under par 34 and then stormed home in 32 with birdies on the tenth, 12th, 15th and 18th holes.

"It's great to get a good round under my belt after what happened last week," said the Australian. "I didn't realise I had made a mistake until I was going through my round later that evening so it meant I had to go back to the tournament office the next morning and DQ myself.

"Obviously, it was a big blow," he added. "But you've got to do it. I didn't have an option. After all, you've got to live with yourself."

Allen, 50, a former Warwickshire county golfer from Maxstoke Park, who turned professional when he was 48, was also recovering from a traumatic experience at the Senior British Open, presented by MasterCard, in Northern Ireland.

Like his Australian rival, he opened strongly, carding opening rounds of 73 and 70, but then had the misfortune to run up a disastrous nine on the opening hole of his third round. He went on to post an 88 before finishing with a 73 for a share of 48th place.

"It was a real shame," said Allen, who missed out on a place on the Seniors Tour at last year's Seniors Qualifying School, "Over the four days, I played some great golf, but three or four bad holes let me down. They cost me a lot of money and it's money I can't afford to lose."

Allen's main aim this week is to earn a top-ten finish that will get him into next week's Seniors Tour event. However, for Good and Ratcliffe, who also carded five under par 67s, there are no such problems. Both are former Seniors Tour winners, although both are recovering from a short spell in the doldrums.

That's the best putting round I have had all season," said Ratcliffe, the Number One on the Seniors Tour's Order of Merit in 2000. "I have been struggling to hole out for weeks but today I had six birdies and could have had a few more as well."

Good, the winner of last year's Legends in Golf tournament in Holland, also had a hot putter to thank for his 67. He rolled in an eight-footer for the first of his six birdies on the 522 yard par five fourth, holed from 25 feet on the eighth and 15 feet on the ninth before coming home in 34.

“That’s a bit better,” he said. “It still wasn’t quite right but, for the first time in a while, I could visualise what I wanted to do and I scored better as a result.

David Jones, the current PGA Cup captain and a former winner of the Jersey Seniors Open, made a total of eight birdies in his 67, including three over his last three holes.

"I don't understand it," said the man from Bangor, Northern Ireland. "Last week, I couldn't get it round on a course I love and know like the back of my hand. Today, on a course that is good but not my cup of tee, I go and score eight birdies. It just goes to show it's a funny old game."

Despite almost incessant rain, almost 40 members of the 132-man field equalled or bettered par. Among those, defending champion, Australia's Ian Stanley, carded a two under par 70 that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Tony Jacklin also seemed all set to shoot an under par total until he bogeyed the 487 yard par five 18th hole to go round in level par 72.

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