Nick Job defied strong winds and driving rain to card a level par 69 and claim a one shot lead over Carl Mason and Bob Charles after the second round of the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open at Royal St David’s in Harlech.
The 56 year old Londoner also has the ominous figure of Sam Torrance breathing down his neck because the Scottish former Ryder Cup captain also carded a 69 to share fourth place with compatriot John Chillas on level par 138.
Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan occupies sixth spot on his own after adding a 69 to his opening 70 for a one over par aggregate of 139.
Job stormed out three under par 33 and then battled back in 36 to give himself a great chance to win his first Seniors Tour title since the Lawrence Batley Seniors in 2001.
“It was brutal out there today but I battened down the hatches and just tried to grind out the pars,” he said. “I’d like to be able to win from the front tomorrow because my other two Seniors titles both came from behind. But, to be honest, I don’t care how I do it as long as I stay out in front”.
Job attributes his return to form to switching to an old putter he last used in the 1970s. “For the last few week’s I have felt I have been playing well but not getting the scores I deserved,” he said. “This week, though, has been different. I switched to a PING Anser putter I last used in the 70s and that seems to have done the trick.”
Mason, the 2003 and 2004 Seniors Tour Number One, might start the final round as favourite to win the £75,000 first prize after claiming his tenth Seniors Tour title in two years at last week’s De Vere Northumberland Seniors Classic at De Vere Slaley Hall. The 52 year old Englishman is free from the persistent back problems that plagued him during the opening months of the season and feels that his game is coming to a peak at just the right time.
“The back feels pretty good, touch wood,” he said after carded a 69 that included two birdies and two bogeys. “The secret to playing this course is to make your score over the opening nine and then hang on for dear life after that. Today, the organisers moved some of the tees up to give us a chance, but it was still a helluva’ test and takes a lot out of you.”
Charles, the 1963 Open champion, matched his age with a controlled round that left him tied with Mason and with a five shot lead over Neil Coles and Tommy Horton in the race for the Hardys Wines Super Seniors prize awarded to the leading competitor aged 60 or over.
The left-hander from New Zealand began his round with a dropped shot at the 463 yard par four third, got it back with a birdie on the 517 yard par five eighth and then came home in level par with a bogey and the 17th and a birdie on the 427 yard par four 17th.
“We don’t very often get conditions like this on the Champions Tour in the States but it’s great fun,” he said. “I love links golf and it becomes even more of a challenge when you’ve got to battle the elements as well as the course.”
Torrance, winner of the recent Irvine Whitlock Seniors Classic in Jersey, remains a serious threat after posting a level par 69 that left him tied with Chillas two shots behind the leader.
“It’s a good place to be,” he said. “In conditions like these all you can do is grind it out and see what happens. I don’t know if I can win tomorrow but I do fancy my chances for playing well.”
The best round of the day came from Yorkshire’s Martin Foster who defied the blustery conditions with a two under par 67 that included three birdies and just one bogey at the 13th where he pulled his second shot off a severe slope. He goes into the final round in a share of seventh place with Italy’s Giueseppe Cali, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Ireland’s Eamonn Darcy on two over par 140 and with a distant chance of snatching the second biggest prize in European Seniors golf.
“I’ve playing plying well for the last couple of weeks,” said the former British Boys champion. “I was in a bit of a rut earlier this season but suddenly I have found a bit of form and hope I can keep it going tomorrow. Another 67 could move me a long way up the leaderboard.”
It also turned out to be a great day for Welsh amateur John Whitcutt who carded a level par 69 to finish the day in the group on nine over par 147.
Whitcutt, 58, a Welsh Senior international from Burnham and Berrow, started his first Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open with a 78 but he shaved nine shots off that opening score despite a ruinous seven at the 188 yard par four third hole.
The Newport-born Whitcutt began his round with a birdie on the 376 yard par four second. He dropped three shots at the par four third when he hit his second shot into a greenside bunker and then flew the green with his third but then made further gains at the fifth, 14th and 16th before dropping a shot at the last where he three-putted from just off the edge of the green.
“It was a very good round despite that blip at the third,” confirmed the part-time solicitor who now lives near Taunton in Somerset. “I hit the really well on the back nine and could have been even better because I missed good chances at both the 15th and the 17th holes.”
Whitcutt admitted to learning a lot just watching the professionals at close hand. “It’s been very educational and I would like to think it will help me in the future,” he said. “It’s amazing how good these guys are at turning three shots in to two. They are also very good at hitting three quarter shots. It has been great to watch at such close hand.”
Bernard Gallacher withdrew on the morning of the second round suffering from a recurrence of a persistent neck injury. The Scottish former Ryder Cup captain had recorded a 73 the previous day in what was his first appearance on this season’s Seniors Tour but his neck seized up overnight and he felt unable to continue.