Saturday, 18 August 2007

Defending champion Carl Mason leads The Midas English Open by one shot on six under par after he and 38 other players completed their second rounds on Sunday morning following Saturday's suspension of play for five hours and 45 minutes at St Mellion owing to heavy rain.

Teeing off at 7.15am from the tenth tee, having completed nine holes in three under par 33 on Saturday evening before play was halted for bad light at 8.20pm, Mason added a level par back nine of 36 for his second consecutive 69 over the Nicklaus Course.

It means he leads by one stroke from Scotland's Bill Longmuir, who is on five under par after a 69, and by three from Northern Ireland's Jimmy Heggarty, who shot a 71 and is three under par. The trio tee off at 12.40 on Sunday from the first tee.

The early restart was necessary after play was suspended indefinitely from 10am on day two of the European Seniors Tour event after the Nicklaus Course became sodden due to incessant rainfall. Following a lengthy delay, the tournament eventually restarted at 3.45pm after tournament officials decided the par 72 circuit could continue to host the second round.

The 36 players who had already started resumed their rounds at the holes they were on when play was suspended. Starting times for players who were still to tee off – those in games 13-34 – was the original start time, plus the five hours 45 minutes.

It meant the final group of Mason, South Africa’s John Bland and Australia’s Stewart Ginn went out at 5.45pm. They were able to complete nine holes of their second round before Tournament Director Michael Petch halted proceedings at 8.20pm.

He then announced the 7.15am Sunday restart would take place, as well as the decision to establish a two-tee start on the final day to ensure no further delays.

Saturday was certainly a day where the players' patience was needed in abundance, during the long wait for play to resume, and once it did, while battling the testing conditions and foul weather.

However, by the time the top ranked players went out, the rain had stopped and apart from a little wind, conditions were favourable. It was harsh on those who had to perform in the worst on the day’s rain, yet that was the hand of fate dealt in Cornwall.

Ireland’s Eamonn Darcy was not one of those who hung around. Having started with a triple bogey seven on the first, he pulled a muscle in his back on the second hole and thus withdrew, arranging a plane with Ryan Air back to his native soil as soon as he could.

It meant he left his friend and St Mellion lodge room-mate Mason alone with the ghost that is reported to be haunting the place, and which gave the Englishman a spooky scare on Thursday night.

However, Mason said he got a great night’s sleep on Friday, and the 54 year old, chasing a record setting fourth English Open win and back to back European Seniors Tour wins, following his victory in the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open last Sunday, could rest well on Saturday after shooting 33 for his belated nine holes.

When he, Bland and Ginn finally got out, Mason got off to a great start, with a fine birdie at the first from 15 feet after a great approach, to move to four under par.

He dropped a shot at the par five second, but rallied with a birdie three at the third. Another birdie came on the fifth hole, and then he produced a great 50-yard up and down par save on the seventh. After another good saving par putt on the par three eighth, needed when the first putt snaked an awkward distance past, Mason birdied the ninth, rolling home from eight feet.

He said: “A birdie was a nice way to finish. It was a very long day for us all, and we needed the patience of a saint. It happens though. I feel fit for 27 holes in a day.”

Lat last night, Bland moved to three under par score with consecutive birdies on the eighth and ninth holes – the latter after a superb five wood he hit out of the left hand rough and chased up the green to 20 feet, a distance he nailed expertly. Bland eventually signed for a 73 after completing his round and is one under par through 36 holes, as is New Zealand's Simon Owen.

England's David J Russell is on two under par after recording a level par 72 when he got through his remaining second round holes unscathed. Meanwhile, Ginn, runner up to Mason last year, fell away with a 75 to be on one over par.



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