John Chillas got the better of defending champion Sam Torrance to take a one shot lead over the former Ryder Cup Captain after the first round of the PGA Seniors Championship at The Stoke by Nayland Golf Club. The two Scots were eight under par playing the 18th hole, but Torrance dropped his only stroke of the day moments before Chillas made a gusty five foot par putt to sign for a brilliant 64 to take the first round lead at the £200,000 European Seniors Tour event.
Chillas, like Torrance, over clubbed at the 191 yard par three 18th, but while Torrance could only manage to get his chip to within 20 feet of the hole from a horrible lie on an upslope, Chillas produced a marvelous up and down befitting of his overall first round performance.
The 55 year old Glenbervie professional flew out of the blocks with six birdies on the front nine to get to the turn in just 30 strokes, and he followed that up with birdies on the 14th and 17th before his wonderful up and down at the last ensured him the outright lead.
Chillas, by his own admission, has had a poor 2006 season compared to previous seasons when he won twice and regularly contented on the Seniors Tour, but he is hopeful that his outstanding start to the PGA Seniors Championship can kick start a thrilling finish to the year.
He said: “I had flu at the beginning of the season – that put me out of a couple of tournaments – and then pulled a muscle in the Senior British Open, and that wiped out another two.
“But hopefully this is the start of a good run because rounds like today can give me a lot of confidence.”
Despite bogeying the 18th, Torrance, the Seniors Tour Order of Merit winner for the past two seasons, was very pleased with the way he began the defence of his title.
“I hit a good shot on the 18th,” said Torrance. “I had a 189 yard tee shot and thought about a five iron but played a hard six just a yard too far. I had a difficult lie and didn’t want to run it through the rough, so I just took my punishment. Otherwise I played beautifully, and it’s a good start.”
In benign conditions – in sharp contrast to Thursday’s pro-am which had to be abandoned because of torrential downpours – 55 players beat the par of 72 at Stoke by Nayland, with Giuseppe Cali of Italy, the English duo of Nick Job and David J Russell, Zimbabwe’s Tony Johnstone, Scotland’s Bill Longmuir and Frenchman Gery Watine all carding opening 67s to move to five under par and form a formidable chasing pack that will be hot on the heels of Chillas and Torrance over the next three days.
South Africa’s Bobby Lincoln, meanwhile, produced one of the most memorable moments of the first round when he holed in one with a perfect pitching wedge from 138 yards on the par three seventh hole.