America's David Oakley put aside the disappointment of finishing second last week to take the first round lead, along with Australian Bob Shearer, in the Nigel Mansell Sunseeker International Classic at Woodbury Park.
They fired five under par 67s in the European Seniors Tour event to lead by a stroke from defending champion Mike Miller from Scotland, England’s John Morgan, Australian Noel Ratcliffe, American Hank Woodrome and Trinidad & Tobago’s Alan Mew.
England’s Nigel Mansell, buoyed by breaking par for the first time in a professional tournament last Sunday, finished in red figures again when he opened with a 71.
Mansell, who owns Woodbury Park, hit the headlines after shooting a three under par 66 in the final round of the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open while so did Oakley after he finished second to compatriot Ray Carrasco.
Said Oakley: “I started playing good a few weeks ago. I finished in the top ten at Slaley Hall and then played good last week. I am hitting the ball great. I had problems reading the greens here last year but I have got a local caddie this week who is a member and between us we are figuring them out.”
The American has hit top form by ironing out his driving and switching to a belly putter.
“I got a belly putter at the US Seniors PGA. I thought that if they are thinking about outlawing them because they are so good I should at least give them a try,” said the American.
He holed a wedge from 97 yards on the seventh for an eagle two and made four birdies and a bogey.
“I wasn’t too disappointed last week as I played really good. I shot 67 and did not let up at all. Ray just made a big long putt on the last hole,” said Oakley, who has won four titles on the Seniors Tour.
Shearer, the second youngest man to win on the Seniors Tour (behind John Bland) when he won on his second time out at the 1998 Jersey Seniors Open, finished in a blaze of birdies.
The Australian, also the holder of four Senior Tour trophies, birdied 12, 14, 16 and 18.
Mansell, made two tough par putts on the last two holes to make it a special day in a tournament which he inaugurated last year.
“It was brilliant. I hung in there, I sunk two long putts on 17 and 18 to make par so I was very happy. To finish one under is great,” said the 1992 Formula One World Champion who is competing as an amateur.
Tired after a busy week which saw him drive a Formula One car through the streets of the London on Tuesday to promote the British Grand Prix, Mansell struggled early on and dropped shots on the first and fifth. However, he rallied on the inward half making birdies on the ninth, tenth and 15th. On the penultimate hole he made a 10 footer for par and then sunk one from eight feet on the last.
“I did not know how I was going to play as I have been working real hard this week. I am being patient and have put in a lot of hard work,” said the 50 year old.
“It was tough out there. It was very wet. It’s playing long as we have had six or seven showers. We have these funny wind squalls and so all of a sudden you have a one or two club wind change,” added the Englishman.
Last year Mansell fired rounds of 73, 72 and 78 to finish in 60th place but he will be confident of improving on that result this week. He finished in joint 39th in the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open.