Scotland's Martin Gray carded a four under par 68 to open a one shot lead after the first round of the ADT English Seniors Open at Formby Hall in Merseyside. The former club professional at Ladybank, Fife, produced a faultless round containing three birdies and 15 pars to go into the second round with a one shot advantage over America's Steve Stull and fellow Scot, Bill Longmuir.
Italy's Giuseppe Cali, France's Philippe Dugeny and New Zealander, Simon Owen share fourth place on two under par 70.
Gray began the day with a birdie on the 172-yard par-3 second and he was also to card two further twos on the 171 yard sixth and the 180-yard 16th before recording his fourth birdie of the day on the 407-yard par-4 17th.
"That's as good a round as I've had in quite a while," said the Scot. "I've been a bit up and down over the last few weeks but today I hit a lot of greens and didn't make any mistakes.
"It's great to be in such a good position going into the weekend." Over the last two rounds Gray's main challenger might well be compatriot Longmuir, who won the recent Charles Church Scottish Senior Open and is chasing the a place in the European team at the UBS Cup in America later on this year.
Longmuir, who is based in Essex, went into the third last event of the European Seniors Tour season £5,000 behind Japan's Seiji Ebihara in the race for a place in the over-40s equivalent of the Ryder Cup but has a great chance to make up at least some of that deficit after a solid 69 that included four birdies and just one bogey on the 445-yard 12th hole where he three-putted for a five.
"It was one of those days," admitted the Scot. "I hit lots of good shots but didn't convert nearly enough of the chances I had.
"At the moment, I have to say I feel a bit disappointed but I don't suppose three 69s will be all that far away at the end of the tournament."
Ebihara, winner of this year's Nigel Mansell Classic, goes into the second round in a share of seventh alongside Eamonn Darcy, Seiji Ebihara, David Good, Nick Job, Paul Leonard and Gery Watine on two under par 70.
Mason, the Order of Merit Leader, who has already guaranteed his place in the UBS Cup side, also let several chances slip. He birdied the 493-yard par-5 fifth and the 384-yard par-4 ninth but then missed several other birdie before before three-putting the 540-yard 18th hole for a disappointing bogey six.
"The good news is that I'm still in it," said the man who has won eight times on the Seniors Tour since turning 50 14 months ago. "However, I really should be right up there with the leaders. It was one of those days when almost every putt I stood up to slipped just past the hole."