England’s Tony Allen carded a fine four under par 68 to claim a two shot lead after the first round of the Midas English Seniors Open over the Jack Nicklaus course at St Mellion International in Cornwall.
Allen dropped a shot at the 418-yard par five opening hole but then hit all of the remaining 17 greens in regulation to go into the second round two shots ahead of England’s Carl Mason and three in front of England’s Nick Job, South Africa’s Bertus Smit and 2004 Senior British Open champion Peter Oakley from America.
America’s Rex Caldwell, Jamaica’s Delroy Cambridge, England’s Bob Cameron, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti, South Africa’s Gavan Levenson and Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan all recorded level par rounds of 72 while Horacio’s brother Luis shared twelfth place alongside Gordon J. Brand, Martin Gray, Bill Hardwick, Tony Price, Adan Sowa, Glen Ralph, Noel Ratcliffe, Jim Rhodes and D.J. Russell on one over par 73.
Allen was making just his seventh start on this season’s Seniors Tour but that did not stop him carding six birdies and dropping just two shots to par over a course that used to host the Benson & Hedges International on the European Tour and is still regarded as one of the most formidable in the country.
The Englishman recovered from his five at the first with birdies on the 545-yard par five second and the 365-yard par four third, dropped a shot at the 165-yard par three fourth but then gained another shot to par when he rammed home a 12-foot putt for a two on the 134-yard par three eighth. He made his fourth and fifth birdies of the day at the 182-yard par three 11th and the 524-yard par five 12th and then signed off with another birdie on the 515-yard par five 16th where he hit the green in two and two-putted from 35 feet.
'I’m delighted,' said Allen whose best performance to date this season came at the Bendinat London Seniors Masters where he finished third behind Italy’s Giuseppi Cali. 'It is a tough course. I set out to play conservatively and it seemed to work.
'I used my driver just twice,' he added. 'You’ve got to be careful here. There are a few birdie chances but an awful lot of trouble too.'
Mason arrived in Cornwall as the tournament favourite after winning last week’s European Senior Masters at Woburn and he lived up to that billing with an extraordinary round that included seven birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey on the opening hole where he drove into trouble and then failed to get up and down from just off the green.
The Englishman got one back when he birdied the second. He gave that back after a poor pitch at the third but then birdied the fourth and fifth before dropping a shot at the eighth and retrieved it again with a birdie on the at the 408-yard par four ninth.
Mason’s topsy-turvy round continued when he birdied the tenth and bogeyed the eleventh but birdies at both the 403-yard par four 13th and the 173-yard par three 14th got him to two under and he parred home from there.
'The six at the first was hardly the start I was looking for but I managed to birdie the second and that sort of set the scene for the day,' he said.
'You could hardly describe the round as consistent but I’d quite happily settle for another two 70s over the weekend.'
Mason is chasing what would be his 13th victory in under four season’s on the European Tour. He headed the Tour’s Order of Merit in 2003 and 2004 before finishing second behind Scotland’s Sam Torrance last season.
Torrance pulled out of this week’s event due to ill health, He is currently Number One on the Order of Merit with €294,496, Mason’s victory last Sunday moved him up to fourth on the list with €162,844.