It was business as usual as the European Seniors Tour touched down in mainland Britain for the first time this year with England’s Carl Mason the man to beat.
When The Mobile Cup got underway in breezy conditions at The Oxfordshire, Mason, the defending champion, showed he is not going to give up the title without a fight.
The local man - he lives just a 30 minute drive away - fired a seven under par 65 which earned him a three stroke lead from American Steve Stull, Gery Watine from France, Argentina’s Luis Carbonetti and England’s Bob Cameron.
Mason, who already has two European Seniors Tour victories to his name this year and heads the Order of Merit, was a morning starter from the tenth tee and was only one under par at the turn. But his inward stretch was a thing of beauty.
An eagle and five birdies was only tarnished by a three-putt bogey at the eighth, otherwise he would have been back in 29.
"It was a shame about the three putt as a 29 would have been nice," he said. "At the start I thought it was going to be tricky. There was a cold wind and we had some rain. But it actually felt quite easy and I really enjoyed it."
Following his victory in Ireland two weeks ago, Mason took a week off to be in tip-top order to defend his title. It certainly did him good although his knowledge of the Oxfordshire course was a bonus.
"I played three Benson & Hedges tournaments here on the main tour and my son Andrew is a member here so I play here with him. It is also nice to be able to commute from home this week as I only live a short drive away."
Mason, who also won four times last year, his rookie season, is clearly the man to beat and, on this form, it is going to take something special to deny him a second successive Mobile title.
Stull, the 53 year old from Washington, also started at the tenth and covered both nines in 34. But it was the two late birdies - at the seventh and eighth - that set up his score. "It was a really solid round and I putted well," he said modestly.
Stull had five birdies in his 68, while Watine ran in seven in a see-saw round. Another tenth tee starter, the 50 year old Frenchman had three early birdies cancelled by three bogeys, but another birdie at the 17th got him going again and three more in a homeward 33 brought a smile back to his face.
"My game has not been good over the last two days and my driving was bad at the start of the round, so I’m very happy to finish with 68," he said.
Carbonetti would have been second on his own after getting to five under but he fired his second shot into the lake at the 17th to take a bogey six.
Cameron, a winner in France this year, was another with seven birdies but also found a watery grave at the short fifth to run up a double bogey.
"The secret today was managing the crosswinds and it got my five iron on the fifth," he said. "It was a case of not shaping your shots but I’m pleased with the way I’m playing.
"I saw that ‘Mace’ had shot 65 before I went out. You couldn’t really miss it on the leader boards but you’ve just got to play your own game."