The hat-trick is back on for Carl Mason after a six under par 66 lifted him to within striking distance of the lead held by fellow Englishman Jim Rhodes going into the final round of the Nigel Mansell Sunseeker International Classic at Woodbury Park.
After back-to-back wins at the De Vere Northumberland Seniors Classic and the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open over the past fortnight, Mason is aiming for his third title in as many weeks. Only Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo on The European Tour and Tommy Horton is the senior ranks have achieved such a feat.
Mason’s chances looked slim after an opening 75 but the Seniors Tour Number One bounced back in style, picking up seven birdies with just one dropped shot to lie on three under par 141, four shots adrift of Rhodes who carded a 68.
“That’s a bit more like it,” said Mason, who climbed from joint 38th to joint third. “Yesterday I just wasn’t at the races but today I felt like I was going to shoot a good score. I holed a couple of good putts early on and it continued from there.
“It gives me a chance. I’m in the game tomorrow and if I can shoot something similar you never know.”
The man to catch though is Rhodes after the former club pro added a four under par 68 to his opening 69 to open up a two stroke lead on Italy’s Giuseppe Cali.
Five birdies and one dropped shot, brought about by a three putt on the 12th, gave Rhodes the edge as he chases his second seniors title in the space of 12 months.
“It was a steady round,” he said. “My irons were good and I putted well for a change. But there are a lot of good players chasing me and I have just got to play my own game and hopefully I’ll be okay.”
Giuseppe Cali of Italy, winner of the The Mobile Cup before Mason went on his victory spree, is once again in contention at five under par after a 68 which included six birdies and just two dropped shots.
“I’m playing with a lot of confidence and now have a fighting chance tomorrow,” said Cali.
South African Gavan Levenson came in on four under par while David J Russell, who was last week named as on of Ian Woosnam’s assistants for The 36th Ryder Cup at The K Club in Ireland next year, joined Mason on three under par after a 67 catapulted him up the leaderboard.
Russell, who is chasing his first title as a senior after four second place finishes, got off to the perfect start when he eagled the first hole, hitting the pin with his eight iron approach to the par five. Four more birdies without a dropped shot in the remainder of the round put him in the frame.
A lesson from fellow Seniors Tour professional Martin Poxon after the first round seemed to do the trick although he did receive his fair share of luck, particularly on the 16th where he chipped in from what appeared an impossible lie.
“I played very nicely,” said Russell, winner of two titles on The European Tour. “I had a lot of chances and could have shot really low. But I have got back amongst it. They have lengthened the course which plays into my hands a little so I have a chance tomorrow.”
He was joined on three under par by fellow Englishmen Tony Allen and Tony Charnley and Jamaica’s Delroy Cambridge. South African Jeff Hawkes looked to be right in the thick of things when he came in at four under par but was disqualified after signing for a wrong score, signing for a four on the 17th instead of a five.
But Ireland’s John Curtis will be celebrating with 180 bottles of Hardys Wine after a hole-in-one. Curtis, who like Mark McNulty has left Zimbabwe and adopted Irish citizenship, aced the par three fifth hole on his way to a three under par 69 in the second round, winning a bottle of wine for every yard.