Friday, 19 March 2010
Mike Miller rediscovered his putting touch to hit the front with a round left of the Mobile Cup at The Oxfordshire.

The 53 year old Scot fired a 64 containing two eagles and five birdies to set the pace on nine under par 135, two strokes ahead of Argentina’s Luis Carbonetti, Bill Hardwick from Canada, and Spain’s Manuel Pinero and four clear of the rest of the field.

Miller admitted he had putted dreadfully for the first 11 holes on Friday but suddenly realised what he was doing wrong and hasn’t had a problem since.

"I tried several ndifferent grips that didn’t work and just thought to myself ‘go back to basics, just turn the shoulders and swing the putter’," he said. "I’ve putted great since by just forgetting the lines and letting the putter do the job.

"I had 35 and 36 putts for the last two rounds last week in Jersey and I had 23 for the first 11 holes here in round one. Today I had 28 overall while the rest of my game has been fine."

Miller gave himself the best possible start with a birdie-three from 15 feet at the first then secured his first eagle from five feet at the long seventh.

Another birdie at the ninth saw him turn in 32 then he dropped his only shot at the 424 yard tenth when he drove into sand.

However, he was soon back on track with an eagle-three at the 11th from six feet before three more birdies in the last five holes, all with putts from around 12 feet, brought him home in 32.

Now he will hope to produce his Sunday best and secure a second Seniors Tour victory. But he’s not counting his chickens.

"Hopefully, this will turn out to be a good week but this can be a fickle game," he added. "If I can keep playing well and the putter behaves itself I will give myself a chance."

Carbonetti found three front nine birdies to be out in 33 and get to seven under. But he found the water with his second shot at the tenth to run up a double-bogey six only to repair the damage with two more birdies, including one at the last.

"It was a lucky shot with a nine iron that rolled around the green and finished two feet away," he said modestly. "But I should have birdied the par five 17th after hitting the green in two. But then I three putted."

Hardwick, the 63 year old from Toronto, came close to beating his age with a flawless six-birdie 66, picking up shots at the 17th and 18th.

"I played steady all day, didn’t get into any trouble," he said. "I drove the ball well and hit 15 greens."

Former Ryder Cup man Pinero added a 68 to his opening 69, a bogey at the 194 yard 15th being his only flaw as he moved up to joint second.

But while Miller and the rest were moving up, an injury-hit Carl Mason was going in the opposite direction, a 74 for 139, leaving him four off the pace in joint fifth spot.

The Order of Merit leader suffered a muscle spasm in his back while in the shower at home in the morning and spent some time on the physiotherapy table before teeing off.

"At one stage I didn’t think I’d be able to play but the physio helped a lot," he said.

"The injury was the reason I shot 74 because I couldn’t get to the bottom of the ball. I hope the back doesn’t stiffen up too much tonight."

Although Mason turned in 35 with a lone birdie, most of his troubles came on the back nine. He found water at the tenth and dropped another shot with three putts at the par four 12th.

Three more putts at the 194 yard 15th cost him another bogey while he took seven at the long 17th after finding the water with his second shot and failing to get up-and-down from a back bunker.

However, he battled back at the last, holing from 40 feet across the slope for a birdie three which, at the end of the day, could prove vital.

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