England's David Creamer and South Africa's Neville Clarke both carded seven under par rounds of 63 to claim a share of the lead after the first round of the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open at Bad Ragaz Golf Club in Switzerland.
Clarke and Creamer go into the second round one shot ahead of Argentina's Horacio Carbonetti and two in front of Australia's Mike Ferguson. Canada's John Irwin, Australia's David Jones and Ireland's Joe McDermott shared fourth place on four under par 66 while Bill Brask, Guillermo Encina, Terry Gale, David Good, Hisao Inoue, Manuel Velasco and Russell Weir all shared seventh place on 67.
During the last two weeks Creamer has missed the cut at both the Senior British Open and the De Vere PGA Seniors but he bounced back to form with a glorious round that included eight birdies and just one dropped shot.
The former English international table tennis player opened with four consecutive birdies from the second and then also birdied the ninth to go out in 30. He carded further birdies on the161 yard par three 11th and the 577 yard par five 12th but then dropped his only shot of the day on the 15th before bouncing back with another birdie on the 478 yard par five 16th.
"I have been working hard on my irons since I missed the cut at the Seniors PGA Championship and that seems to have done the trick," he said. "Last week I felt that I would drop a shot at each short hole I came to but today was much better.
I hit a lot of irons close," he added. "In fact I could have shot very low. Just before I dropped a shot at the 15th it did cross my mind that I could score 60. Unfortunately that hole stopped me in my tracks. I hit my second shot through the green and as soon as I saw mud on the ball I knew I would struggle to get up and down."
Clarke has also been Battling with his game since earning a Card at last year's Qualifying School in Portugal. He arrived in Switzerland languishing in 77th place on the official Order of Merit but has a chance to climb up the list after a flawless round containing seven birdies.
The former South African amateur champion carded birdies at the 334 yard par four second and the 366 yard par four eighth but it was coming home that he made his biggest move. He started the second nine with birdies on the 10th and 12th and then also gained shots on the 15th and 16th before hitting a seven iron to six feet for final birdie of the day on the 18th.
"That's the best round I have played all year," said the relieved South African. "I came here hoping to get a top ten finish to secure a place in next week's tournament at Wentworth and now I have got a good chance to do that.
"I just hope I'm not going to be a one-day wonder," he added. "I need to do something or else I am going to lose my Card."
Carbonetti has been one of the steadiest of last year’s Qualifying School graduates but that is not a description that could be used for his opening nine holes in the sweltering heat in Switzerland.
The Argentinian went out in two under par 33 but that total hid the fact that his card contained five birdies, three bogeys and just one par. He made his big move coming home posting his first two birdies on the 577 yard par five 12th and the 422 yard par four 13th before moving to six under with further birdies on the 16th and the 18th.
Scotland’s Bill Longmuir made a solid start in his bid to cut the absent Carl Mason’s lead at the top of the official Seniors Tour Order of Merit. He carded a one under par 69 but then admitted that the tight and tree-lined Bad Ragaz course was not for him.
“I felt as if I had a straight-jacket on all day,” said the Scot who has won twice in his first six starts on the Seniors Tour. “I like to open my shoulders but you cannot afford to do that round here. You have got to keep on the fairway or else you’re dead.”
Last year’s champion, Japan’s Dragon Taki, recorded a one over par 71 to finish well down the field. However, it could have been worse because he eagled the 478 yard par five 16th to undo some of the damage he had done earlier in the round.