Mark James fired a brilliant seven under par round of 65 over the Duke’s Course to roar into contention on day two of the European Senior Masters at Woburn Golf Club, where defending champion Carl Mason leads by one shot from Costantino Rocca.
English ace Mason shot a sparkling six under par 66, for a seven under par 137 total, to maintain his hopes of retaining his title and also becoming the top earner in European Seniors Tour history.
“Confidence is a wonderful thing and I’m certainly feeling it when I go out on the golf course,” said Mason. “I’m putting well and I’m happy with the way I’m playing. Of course, I’m hoping I can win again and set the new record. It’s a nice position to be in.”
However, Mason is being chased hard by Italy’s Rocca, who is six under par after carding a second consecutive 69 for a 138 total, Chile’s Guillermo Encina, who is on four under par 140 following a 68, and fellow countryman James, who is on three under par 141.
The second day accolades certainly belonged to James. Starting the day four over par after his opening 76, James romped round without dropping any strokes, to finish on three under par.
James, who has claimed a unique double at Woburn, having won the British Masters in 1990 and European Senior Masters in 2005, once again found the Duke’s Course to his liking.
Out in 31, James recorded birdies at holes one, three, four and six. Coming home, he birdied 12 and 13, before a closing riposte at the 18th when his wedge in set up a 20 foot putt he holed to seal his career best European Seniors Tour round.
The 1999 European Ryder Cup Captain said: “That’s more like it. I’ve had a third and fourth place in America, but I’ve been playing a bit iffy, so I’ve been working hard on my game recently, just on a bit of everything. Today was the first time it’s come together and I feel I’ve turned a corner.
“It puts me in contention and it’s nice to have a sniff of a chance, providing Costantino and Carl don’t do something silly and get too far ahead. But I’m very pleased. I’ve never played better here, and it’s nice to do it in the only European Seniors Tour event I’m playing in for the rest of the season.”
James got up and down from the greenside bunker at the first, holing a 15 foot birdie putt, as he did on the 134 yard par three third hole, after a wedge into the green.
On the fourth hole, he hit three wood and eight iron to five feet for another birdie, and on the sixth he hit a six iron 170-yards to within eight feet and sank his putt for another two.
The six iron again set up a birdie on the 12th, a 186 yard par three, as James rolled in a two foot effort, while on the 13th, he hit three wood and seven iron to one foot for another red number.
Rocca, who led by one at the start of play, also got off to a fine start, getting up and down from the greenside bunker on the first hole to record a birdie. He duly added three more in quick succession, at the third, fourth and fifth, only for a bogey on seven to briefly halt his front nine charge, which was completed in 32 shots.
He came back in level par 37 – his bogey at 16 cancelling out his 11th hole birdie – and said how much he was looking forward to his final day tussle with Mason.
“I’m only one behind and it’s going to be a difficult day, but it will be for him also. I think I will need to putt well if I am going to win,” said Rocca, whose 22 year old daughter Chiara is caddying for her dad for the very first time.
“She is beautiful and very nice and it is very special to have her with me,” smiled the doting father, who also had the misfortune of getting bitten by some red ants on his shoulder during his round.
Mason, playing in the group ahead of Rocca having started on one under par, was equally in hot form. He recorded birdies at holes one, three, five, six and seven, and bogeyed the ninth, to go out in 31. On the back nine, he birdied ten and 15 to complete another fine showing at a course he admits he loves to play.
Despite suffering from a bad shoulder he is needing physiotherapy treatment on, Australia’s Stewart Ginn shot a 68 to finish on a one under par 143 total. “I’ll see the physio tomorrow and come out and hopefully do the same again,” he said.
Scotland’s Sam Torrance carded a one under par 71. He birdied holes four, eight, 12 and 17, but bogeys at seven, 11 and 14 undermined his round and left him two over par after 36 holes. His verdict was: “I played solid golf, but every time I made a birdie I gave it back with a bogey. I’ll need something like a 61 tomorrow, but you never know.”