David J Russell will sleep soundly after strengthening his grip on the £500,000 FIRSTPLUS Wales Seniors Open at The Vale Hotel, Golf & Spa Resort, but the same probably can’t be said of Martin Poxon. The two Englishmen had been locked at the top of the leaderboard before the previously impressive Poxon suffered the stuff of nightmares by making ten at the treacherous 12th hole.
Poxon, who was playing with Russell in the final group on Saturday, visited the water twice and then found an almost unplayable spot at the back of the green, from where he could only stab his ball into a greenside bunker. To compound his misery, he was presented with a difficult downhill lie and failed to get up and down.
“Martin has been my best mate for years really and to watch him take ten was quite a difficult thing to do and then I had to try to concentrate on my own game,” said Russell, after signing for a second consecutive round of 69 that leaves him on six under par 138 and four clear of Scotland’s Sam Torrance in second place.
Frenchman Gery Watine is a shot further back in third spot on one under par 143, while the group on level par comprises Giuseppe Cali of Italy, England’s Nick Job, Spanish duo Juan Quiros and José Rivero of Spain, and Ireland’s Des Smyth.
Defending champion Carl Mason and fellow Englishman Poxon are on one over after respective rounds of 72 and 75.
Although Russell holds what appears to be a commanding lead, he is well aware that the Wales National Course is becoming firmer and more treacherous as every sun-kissed day passes. And added to that is the menacing presence of Torrance, winner of two of the past three events, in his rear view.
Only eight players broke par in the second round - meaning there have been only 13 red-figure rounds in two days - and the par four 12th hole was the ruin of many a scorecard. After 152 completed rounds, the 12th had played more than one and a half strokes over its par.
“It is very difficult to score because it is so bouncy and if you miss the green it is a disaster,” commented Russell. “I played very solidly and I was very pleased to break 70 again.”
The European Tour Board Member found that caution was the better part of valour when he found trouble on the par five 13th. His wayward drive hit a cart path and ended up in the thick stuff, leaving Russell with no option but to play out sideways. He could have gone for the green with his third shot but decided to play two wedges, and was delighted to hole the second of those from 100 yards for a unlikely birdie.
“After that I had four really good birdie chances that I never took, but overall I am a happy man. It will fun to play against Sam and hopefully I can beat him on tomorrow’s score alone without needing the four stroke headstart.”
Torrance forced his way into contention over the back nine, which by contrast is where he had struggled in his first round of two over par 72.
A birdie four at the tenth hole got the ball rolling and the former Ryder Cup Captain followed it with birdies at the 13th, 14th and the 18th, where he holed a brilliant 25 foot putt for a round of four under par 68.
He said: “I grinded it out well today and have forced my way right back into contention. The putt at the 18th was the first decent one I holed all day and it was crucial for me. If I am going to win this title I feel I have to be in the last group. I need to be there to put pressure of DJ and see what happens.”
History favours Torrance as he pushed Russell into second place at three tournaments last year, when he finished top of the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit.
The lowest round of the tournament so far was registered by Giuseppe Cali, who reeled off four birdies and an eagle three in his score of five under par 67, which moved the Italian from a share of 51st place to tied fourth.
While Cali was making near perfect progress, England’s Kevin Spurgeon had a day when the fickle gods of golf seemed to be toying with him.
The 2005 Rookie of the Year aced the 175-yard third hole with a seven iron and then collected a seven to forget, as he tripled-bogeyed the 12th.
Spurgeon also mixed birdies and bogeys at regular intervals and finished an eventful day with a round of 73 to move to four over par 148 for the tournament.
However, his frustration at not building on his fast start – he was five under through the first five holes – was tempered by the fact that he collected 175 bottles of Hardys Nottage Hill wine for his spectacular hole-in-one. “That was the perfect timing for me as I had just run out of the supply I won for my hole-in-one at Woburn last year!”
|T2||RUSSELL, David J||ENG||18||-3|