England’s Carl Mason inched one step closer to winning a third consecutive European Seniors Tour Order of Merit title when he carded a four under par 68 that leaves him two shots off the pace after the first round of the Castellon Costa Azahar Open de España at Club de Campo del Mediterraneo.
Mason goes into the second round tied with Bob Boyd, Bruce Heuchan and Mike Miller two shots behind overnight leaders Giuseppi Cali, Delroy Cambridge, Terry Gale, Jim Rhodes and Alan Tapie and one shot adrift of Spanish rookie Jose Rivero. It is a position that gives him a great chance to extend his current slender €8,529 (£5,776) lead over the absent Sam Torrance at the top of the Seniors Tour money list.
Torrance is competing along side son Daniel at this week’s dunhill links championship in Scotland and Mason made full use of the Scot’s decision to miss the Spanish event with a battling performance in which he went out in level par 36 but then sprung into life on the inward nine with birdies at the 11th, 13th, 14th and 17th.
“It was a bit of a struggle to start with but in the end I managed to post a pretty good score,” said Mason.
“This week I’ve got a great opportunity to create a bit of breathing space between me and Sam but I will need a big cheque to do it.
“It’s a shame I have missed so much of this season with a bad back but at least my destiny is still in my hands.”
Rhodes carded a total of nine birdies in a 66 that tied Cali, Cambridge, Gale and Tapie and it would have been even better without a bogey on the third and a double at the 336 yard par four11th where he hit his tee shot into the base of a tree and then found sand with his approach to the green.
“It was a case of what might have been,” said the former club professional who won his third European Seniors Tour title at this season’s Nigel Mansell Sunseeker International at Woodbury Park. “I can’t remember the last time I managed nine birdies in a round but I also let a couple of shots slip and that ruined what could have been an incredible card.”
Cali has been one of the most consistent performers on this season’s Seniors circuit. His win at the Mobile Cup is one of seven top ten finishes he has accumulated to date and he set himself up for another good week with a fine round in which he dropped a shot at the 217 yard par three second hole but then birdied the third, fourth and ninth to go out in 34 before storming home in 32 with birdies on the 13th and 16th and a spectacular eagle on the 526 yard par five 17th.
Gale is another man who has performed admirably over the last six months. He won the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open in August and can extend a run of four top ten finishes in his last six starts if he can sustain the sort of form he displayed during the first round. The Australian seven-time Seniors Tour winner began steadily with six pars in his first six holes but then burst into life with five consecutive birdies from the seventh before completing a flawless round with a birdie on the long 17th hole.
Cambridge came into the Spanish event struggling to replicate the sort of form that saw him win no less than three times during the 2002 season but that did not stop him posting seven birdies before ruining that run with his only dropped shot of the day at the 363 yard par four closing hole.
“It wasn’t a great way to finish but I played as well as I have done for quite some time,” said the 55 year old Jamaican. “I haven’t had a top ten finish since I was tied for third at Nigel Mansell’s event in July but that should change if I can keep it going over the weekend.”
Tapie is another competitor who has not quite been performing at the sort of level that brought him victory at the 1999 Elf Seniors Open in France. He has just three top ten finishes to his credit this season but can make amends if he maintains the sort of form he showed in the first round.
The American began both nines with bogeys but birdied the third, fifth, eighth, 11th and 14th before finishing his round in blistering fashion with three consecutive birdies from the 16th.
One behind the leaders stands the menacing figure of Spanish former Ryder Cup star Rivero who posted a flawless 67 in what is just his second start in the Seniors ranks.
Rivero made his Seniors Tour debut while finishing tied third at last week’s Bendinat London Seniors Masters and is clearly at home on the pristine fairways of the Club de Camp del Mediterraneo club where Sergio Garcia’s father Victor is the head professional.
The Spaniard went out in level par 36 but carded five birdies in an inward 31 to signal that he will be a big threat on the Seniors circuit.
“It’s great to be back on the Tour,” said the jubilant Spaniard. “I’ve been waiting a while to turn 50 so I’m enjoying every minute of competing again.”