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Saturday, 22 March 2003
Spain's Manuel Pinero inched one step closer to winning his maiden European Seniors Tour title when he carded his second successive two under par 70 to move into a share of the lead after the second round of the inaugural Digicel Jamaica Classic in association with Sony Ericsson at the Half Moon resort in Montego Bay.

The Spanish former Ryder Cup star produced 16 pars and two birdies to go into the final round tied with Bob Larratt, John Morgan and Noel Ratcliffe on four under par 140 but then admitted that he was surprised to have done so well after a hectic winter break working on seven new golf design projects inside Spain.

"I would have to admit that I have played a lot better than I expected to," said the man who owns a rare 100 percent Ryder Cup singles record. "I have got seven design projects on the go at the moment so I haven't had as much time to practice as I would have liked."

Pinero's golf belied the fact that he had arrived in Jamaica feeling that his game was a little bit rusty. He had to scramble a bit while carding nine successive pars on the opening nine but then played much more solidly coming home.

The Spaniard made his first advance of the day when he birdied the 509-yard par five tenth hole and he went further under par when he added a second successive birdie on the following hole. Thereafter he had several other chances but had to settle for a share of first place.

The best round of the day came from rookie, Larratt, who scorched through the field with a flawless round of 66.

The club professional at Kibworth GC in Leicestershire only earned his Seniors Tour card at last autumn's Qualifying School in Portugal and admitted that he was amazed by the instantaneous impact he has made after a disappointing 74 in the opening round.

The former winner of the Midlands Region PGA Order of Merit got back to level par for the tournament when he birdied the 383 yard par four second hole and the 555 yard par five fourth hole and then moved to four under par after adding further birdies at the ninth, the 13th, the 14th and the 17th.

"I feel as if I am on cloud nine at the moment," said the Englishman after finding shelter from the 90-degree heat. "I have been practising hard this winter but this is certainly above my expectations.

"I hit the ball great and I got the breaks as well. The birdie on the par five 17th was a bit outrageous because I duffed a bunker shot but then holed a chip from about 30 yards."

The third man to share the lead going into the final round is the much more experienced Englishman, John Morgan.

Morgan had opened with a one over par 73 but moved to the top of the leaderboard after a splendid five under par 67 that included seven birdies and just two dropped shots.

The Englishman made four birdies over his opening six holes but then gave a shot back when he three-putted the 183-yard par three eighth hole. He also dropped a shot at the 12th but undid the damage with a further three birdies on the 13th, 14th and 17th.

"I played very nicely," said the Englishman who spent a month in New Zealand over the winter honing his game for what will be his eleventh season on the Seniors Tour.

"I was delighted to finish fourth on last season's Order of Merit but what I'd like more than anything is a win. It's been more than three years since I won for the last time at the AIB Irish Seniors Open and that's far too long."

Ratcliffe has six times on the Seniors Tour but is another man to have endured something of a winless draught. He secured his last victory back at the 2001 De Vere Hotels Seniors Classic but has a fine chance to make amends after a solid round that included four birdies and just two dropped shots.

"I played quite good out there today," confirmed the Australian. "I hit a couple of tee shots off line but the rest of my game was pretty solid. It's nice to get two good rounds under my belt so early in the season.

The leading quartet go into the final round a single shot ahead of America's Ray Carrasco and Alan Tapie with Chile's Guillermo Encina, Australia's Terry Gale and England's Nick Job a further shot behind on 143. Irishman Christy O'Connor Jnr also made positive move up the leaderboard with a three under par 69 that left him in a tie for tenth place alongside David Creamer, Joe McDermott and Wayne Wright on 143.

The former Ryder Cup star had started out with a two over par 74 but he improved that by five shots with a sparkling round that included six birdies and three bogeys.

O'Connor started with a bang when he birdied three of the first holes before dropping consecutive shots at the sixth, seventh and eighth. He then put together a run of five successive pars before making his move with birdies on the 15th, the 17th and the 18th.

The Irishman came into the event with a niggling shoulder injury but confirmed that it had been improving as the week went on.

"When I woke up this morning it definitely felt a lot better," said O'Connor. "It's still not one hundred percent but I feel as if I can swing a bit more freely again. I'm looking forward to the morning because I feel as if I'm right back in with a chance."

England's David Creamer and Ireland's Joe McDermott are tied for the lead in the race for the concurrent Hardys Wines Super Seniors prize awarded to the leading competitor aged 60 or over. Creamer added a 73 to his opening 70 while McDermott carded a 72.

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