England's Carl Mason and Scotland's Bill Longmuir resumed their battle at the top of the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit when they both won their opening matches during the first round of The Daily Telegraph/Turismo Andaluz European Seniors Match Play Championship at the new Los Flamengos Golf Club near Marbella, Spain.
Mason, the current No. 1, defeated Scottish club professional, Martin Gray, 3 & 2 while Longmuir, his nearest rival, was made to battle all the way before beating America's Steve Stull by a similar margin.
Both men now faces potentially treacherous second round matches, with Mason pitted against Spanish former Ryder Cup star, Manuel Pinero, and Longmuir up against defending champion, Jamaica's Delroy Cambridge.
Mason knew before he went out that he would have to be on form to defeat Gray, the club professional at Ladybank Golf Club in Fife, and play well he did, being four under par when he ended the Scot’s challenge on the 16th. For much of the opening nine, there was little to chose between the two golfers but the Englishman moved into a two hole lead with a birdie at the tenth and a par on the 11th and then sealed his second round tie against Pinero with a birdie on the 354 yard yard par four 16th.
Pinero has always been known as a fine match play golfer and he enhanced that reputation with a solid performance against an out-of-sorts Diniz.
The Spaniard owns a 100 percent Ryder Cup singles record and, in this instance, he did not look likely to lose either after Diniz, the 2000 champion, dropped shots at four successive holes from the sixth. Pinero added to the Brazilian’s misery when he holed out for a spectacular eagle three on the 480 yard par five tenth hole. He also won the 11th before securing the victory with a regulation par on the 14th.
"It’s always nice to get through the first round,“ said Pinero. "I didn’t play my best but I did what I had to do and that’s what is important in match play golf.“
Cambridge, meanwhile, showed the sort of form that enabled him to win last year's championship at Los Flamingos. He fired five birdies and an eagle on the 507 yard 15th to defeat the luckless Ian Mosey by 5 & 3 and then admitted he remains confident about defending his title.
"I like it here and I believe I can do well again," said the Jamaican. "Today, I hit the ball really solid. It's the best I have played for a while."
In the second round Cambridge comes face-to-face with Longmuir, who had to dig deep before defeating the tenacious American, Steve Stull, on the 16th green.
Longmuir and his American rival were all square through the 11th before the Scot mounted the charge that was to give him a place in the second round draw. He went one ahead when he birdied the 367 yard par four 12th and then sealed the match with three consecutive birdies from the 14th.
"It was a nice way to finish but I can tell you it was tough out there," said the relieved Scotsman at the end. "There was never much between us. For a while, it could have gone either way"
Longmuir's victory ended a mixed day for the strong Scottish contingent. John Chillas, No. 4 in the Seniors Tour Order of Merit behind Mason, Longmuir and Terry Gale, defeated England's David Creamer on the last to set up a second round tie against Ireland's Denis O'Sullivan. However, Mike Miller and Russell Weir both joined Gray on the sidelines after losing to Guiseppe Cali and Horacio Carbonetti, respectively.
England’s Jim Rhodes and America’s Jerry Bruner fought out the longest match of the day with the Englishman, who won the 2001 title at Le Meridien Penina, going through with a regulation par four on the 19th hole.
Elsewhere, Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan, defeat last year’s losing finalist, Eddie Polland while Italy’s Guiseppe Cali proved too strong for Paul Leonard, winner of the recent Bovis Lend Lease European Senior Masters at Woburn.
In the other games, David Oakley defeated Sebastian Bruno by one hole, Ian Stanley beat Baldovino Dassu 2 & 1, Noel Ratcliffe defeated Bob Cameron 2 & 1, Nick Job defeated Brian Jones 3 & 2, Keith MacDonald defeated Gary Wintz 2 & 1 and Dragon Taki defeated Hank Woodrome by one hole.
The full second round draw is as follows: Durnian v Cali, Carbonetti v Oakley, Mason v Pinero, Stanley v Ratcliffe, Job v MacDonald, Cambridge v Longmuir, Chillas v O’Sullivan and Taki v Rhodes.