Friday, 19 March 2010
Scotland's Mike Miller and Australia's Noel Ratcliffe hold a one shot lead after the first round of the Tunisian Seniors Open at El Kantaoui.

Miller and Ratcliffe both carded five under par rounds of 67 in temperatures approaching 90 degrees to go into the second round one shot ahead of Craig Defoy, Denis Durnian, Denis O'Sullivan and Steve Stull.

Miller was the first to make his mark on a day in which a total of 31 golfers out of a field of 51 equalled or bettered par. The Scot went out in one under par after birdies at the second and the ninth and a bogey on the third and then stormed home in 32 after further birdies at the 12th, the 14th, the 15th, the 17th and the 18th.

"That's as good a round as I have had in a long time," said the Scot. "It was a great back nine and it would have been even better but for a shanked pitch at the 13th. That cost me a shot but I can't really complain because I holed some good putts out there as well. The secret now is to try and keep it going."

Ratcliffe made a fast start to his round with birdies on both the 475 yard par five first and the 191 yard par three second. He recorded another birdie when he holed out from four feet at the 514 yard par five seventh but then dropped his only shot of the day when he three-putted from 25 feet on the 438 yard par four ninth.

Coming home, the Australian got to three under par when he hit an eight iron into nine feet for a birdie on the 404 yard tenth. He added further birdies on the 15th and the 18th where he hit a nine iron into twelve feet and then holed the resultant putt.

"I hit the ball really well," said the Australian. "Over the last few weeks the odd loose tee shot has been costing me but I didn't have any trouble today. It's nice to make a score again."

The quartet tied in third place arrived in Tunisia with altogether different goals

O'Sullivan three-putted from seven feet at the 18th to lose in the semi-final of last week's Daily Telegraph/Sodexho Seniors Match Play Championship but bounced straight back with a flawless round that included two birdies and an eagle on the 514 yard seventh. His only escape came when he carved a drive straight right on the 438 yard ninth but then discovered that it had hit a fence and bounced back into the middle of the fairway.

"That was a real break and it would have been even better if I had holed from eight feet for a birdie," said the former Irish Amateur champion from Cork.

"I have forgotten all about last week," he added. It was a bit embarrassing at the time but there's no point worrying about it now."

Durnian came to northern Africa with the sole intention of consolidating his second place on the Seniors Tour money list, thereby guaranteeing a place in the Rest of the World side to face America in next month's UBS Warburg Cup at Sea Island, Georgia.

The Englishman needs just one more high finish to confirm that spot and he made the best possible start, posting a 68 that included birdies on the seventh, tenth, 11th, 14th and 16th.

"I struggled a bit to start with but got it going better coming home," said The Englishman, who won the recent Charles Church Scottish Seniors Open at The Roxburghe. "Since the start of the season, my main goal has been to get back into the Warburg Cup team. It was the highlight of my career when I qualified to play in it last year and I'd love to get into it again.

"My swing feels good at the moment," he added. "I just need two more good rounds and the trip to the States is mine."

Defoy, the club professional at Coombe Hill, Surrey, came into the Tunisian event in an altogether different position. He is languishing in 63rd place on the money list and is facing an uphill struggle to retain his full playing privileges for next season.

Under the circumstances, the Welshman did well to compile 68 that included no less than seven birdies. He started brightly with a birdie on the 475 yard first hole but then dropped shots at both the third and the fourth before bouncing back with birdies at the fifth and the seventh to go out in 35. Coming home, Defoy produced four successive birdies from the 13th but handed one shot back with a bogey on the 381 yard par four 17th.

The Welshman put his welcome return to form down to a complete break from golf.

"It has done me a lot of good," Defoy confirmed. "Three weeks ago, I felt as if I was on a roundabout and couldn't get off. I was trying too hard and the harder I tried, the worse my golf got.

"Then I read somewhere that Martina Hingis had decided she'd had enough and was going to take the rest of the season off. It seemed like a good idea. For the last three weeks, I've hardly hit a shot and it seemed to have worked because that's the best I have played for quite a while.

"In the future, I'm going to have to learn how to pace myself better," he added. "I'm not one of those people who can play week after week. You would have thought I'd have learned that by now."

Stull, the winner of this year's Tobago Plantations Seniors Classic, recorded birdies at the second, sixth and 13th but the highlight of his round was at the seventh where he emulated O'Sullivan's eagle after hitting two drivers into 30 feet.

His goal this week is to overhaul John Morgan and claim fifth place on the money list heading into the final event of the season in Portugal.

It turned out to be a day to forget for former Seniors Tour Number One, Tommy Horton, who carded a three over par 75 and even worse for former Ryder Cup captain, Bernard Gallacher who could do no better than 77.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MORGAN, JohnENG18-12
2MILLER, MikeSCO18-7
3GARRIDO, AntonioESP18-1
4O'SULLIVAN, DenisIRL18-14
T6DINIZ, PriscilloBRA18-8
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