Friday, 19 March 2010

While all the pre-tournament talk had been about Scottish former Ryder Cup Captains Sam Torrance and Bernard Gallacher, it was the Spanish duo of Juan Quiros and José Rivero who took control on day one of the Charles Church Scottish Seniors Open at a blustery Marriott Dalmahoy Hotel & Country Club.

Rivero and Quiros, third and fourth respectively on the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit, both carded fine rounds of three under par 69 to lead by a stroke from defending champion Nick Job of England, Bob Lendzion of the United States and South African Bertus Smit.

For both players it could have been even better, but, like so many others, they were tripped up by the 460 yard par four closing hole on Dalmahoy’s revamped East Course. Rivero made a five while Quiros badly duffed a chip after missing the green to the left and took six.

“A bogey would have been okay, but not a double-bogey,” he said. “I missed the green in a bad spot and probably over-clubbed. Overall I played well, though. It was only the second time I missed a green all day.”

A small man, Quiros has made a big impact in a short time on the European Seniors Tour and won on his seventh start in Switzerland a fortnight ago to exceed his wildest expectations. “He is a fantastic player,” was Rivero’s generous assessment of his countryman. “This guy played fantastic in Spain but never really repeated it on The European Tour. The Seniors Tour has been good for him.”

Rivero enjoyed greater success on the regular tour, winning four times and playing in two successful Ryder Cup Teams, and he has begun to repeat that form in the seniors environment where he has won twice this year.

He is €52,000 behind Torrance at the top of the Order of Merit and could make up significant ground this week. “I am in a nice position, but obviously it is better for Sam. There are six events left and I have to just take it tournament by tournament and see what happens.”

Torrance came into his home open as the hot favourite after registering his third victory of the season in Suffolk on Bank Holiday Monday, where he completed a successful defence of the PGA Seniors Championship title at The Stoke By Nayland Golf Club.

And given his previous form at Dalmahoy – Torrance won the fifth and last of his Scottish PGA Championship titles over the East Course in 1993, with a low total of 269 for the four rounds – most observers expected him to follow in the footsteps of David Huish and Bill Longmuir by becoming the third Scottish winner of the event.

However, the Order of Merit leader struggled to control his broom-handled putter in the strong winds and consequently made a poor start, signing for a hugely disappointing 76, four over par, which leaves him well off the pace.

“I am well behind now,” rued Torrance, whose only birdie came at the first. “My putting wasn’t very good. I actually didn’t hit the ball that badly but 36 or 37 putts is not good enough.

“I always struggle in the strong wind with the putter and conditions were very tough today.”

Gallacher is another who began the day with fond memories of Dalmahoy, having won the Scottish PGA there in 1983 and the club championship twice while a junior member, but the only cheer he found in a difficult first round was finishing just before the heavy rains started.

After months away from the golf course, a noticeably rusty Gallacher struggled home in six over par 78 and immediately commented: “I am not expecting to play well and unfortunately I’m living up to my expectations.

“My back is feeling a bit better than it has done but I’ve just not played any golf. At the moment I don’t get down in two if I miss the green. I would not have played if this wasn’t Scotland and Dalmahoy.”

However, there remains a strong Scottish challenge as the less heralded duo of Martin Gray and Mike Miller started with rounds of 71 for a share of sixth place on one under par, two shots behind the Spaniards.

Miller, languishing in 53rd place on the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit, attributed his improved performance to a new mental approach.

He said: “I have been playing a bit better, but still maybe not holing enough putts. I am trying to not think so much and just play. I sometimes get too technical, wondering where the club is at every point, and you end up with paralysis by analysis.

“I go out in the Pro-Ams half of the time and I am not thinking about anything and it’s only afterwards I think, ‘Blimey, I played well there’. But when it gets a bit more serious I have been in danger of letting the demons in. I am working on controlling that and although my results have not been brilliant, I’ve certainly had better rounds recently.”

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