It was a case of the ‘Mouse’ that roared on the opening day of the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open at Golf Club Bad Ragaz, Switzerland, as American Jerry Bruner took a commanding lead with a course record equalling 62. He is three shots clear of Frenchman Gery Watine, who is alone in second place.
Bruner, nicknamed ‘Mouse’ after the cartoon character Mighty Mouse in recognition of his size and the prodigious distance he hits the ball, took full advantage of the tranquil sunny conditions by firing five birdies to reach the turn in just 30 shots.
The 58 year old from California picked up further shots at the 577 yard par five 12th and 422 yard par four 13th, before the highlight of his round came three holes from home.
After taking driver off the tee – one of only four holes when he needed to use the big stick around the 6,130 yard Bad Ragaz course – Bruner hit a three wood to within two feet of the hole at the 478 yard par five 16th and sunk the putt for an eagle three.
He looked odds on to set a new course record but blotted his copybook with a bogey five at the last for a back nine of 32 and an eight under par round of 62 – equalling the mark set by Scotland’s David Huish (2000), Canadian John Irwin (2001), Priscillo Diniz (2003) of Brazil and Englishman Denis Durnian (2004).
Bruner, one of the most popular figures on the European Seniors Tour, has struggled by his own standards this season but feels he is turning the corner.
After victories at the 2001 European Seniors Tour Championship and the De Vere Northumberland Seniors Classic in 2003, the American achieved three top 10 finishes in 2004 but this year has seen him hit a barren spell, with tied 13th at the AIB Irish Seniors Open his best result from 11 events to date.
“I have been changing things, trying to go back to where I was a few years ago when I was striking the ball really well.
“My swing is forever, I can’t change that, but I have been tweaking my grip. The changes seem to be working out now. I am really pleased with my day’s work,” said Bruner.
Watine occupies second place on his own after firing nine birdies in a five under par round of 65, followed a shot back by a group of five players that comprises leading Englishman Ian Mosey, Bob Boyd of America, Argentina’s Luis Carbonetti, South African John Mashego and Australia’s Noel Ratcliffe.
Luis Carbonetti’s brother Horacio, the defending champion who is hoping to join an elite group of players to have won the same tournament three years in a row, was in a group of 10 players tied on three under that also featured European Seniors Tour debutant Gordon J Brand of England, who only turned 50 on Saturday.
Only seven golfers have managed to win the same European Tour tournament for three years in succession: England’s Neil Coles (De Vere PGA Seniors Championship); South African Ernie Els (Heineken Classic 2002, 03, 04 and on two separate occasions in the HSBC World Match Play Championship); England’s Nick Faldo (Irish Open 1991, 92, 93); Colin Montgomerie of Scotland (PGA Championship 1998, 99, 2000); Ireland’s Christy O’Connor (De Vere PGA Seniors Championship); American and World Number One Tiger Woods (WGC – NEC Invitational 1999, 2000, 01); and Welshman Ian Woosnam (Monte Carlo Open 1990, 91, 92).