He admits he is feeling tired after a month of relentless title chasing golf - but in-form Carl Mason leads by four shots at the PGA Seniors Championship after he fired a third consecutive five under par 67 to finish on a 15 under par 201 total after 54 holes at the Stoke-by-Nayland Club.
The 2004 champion had an eagle and six birdies in his third round in Suffolk and leads by four shots from South Africa’s John Bland, who shot a three under par 69 and is on 11 under par 205.
Italy’s Costantino Rocca, who shot a one under par 71, is one shot further back on ten under par 206, as is Canada’s Bruce Heuchan, who shot level par 72. Scotland’s Ross Drummond, in only his second event since a six-week lay-off with a back injury, shot a one under par 71 to be on nine under par 207.
On day three of the 51st PGA Seniors Championship, play was delayed for an hour due to early morning fog on the Gainsborough Course – but there was nothing foggy about the way Mason performed.
Fresh from retaining the European Senior Masters at Woburn Golf Club last weekend, Mason is now seeking his fourth European Seniors Tour win of 2007 and 18th title in only four years competing on the senior circuit.
He said: “I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s final round. I must admit I’m feeling tired mentally – I’ve been in the final group for the last two rounds of the last four tournaments, and it takes its toll. Fortunately, my game is good, and I’ve won two of them. Hopefully, I can make it three. I’ll be ready for a week off then.”
Apart from being annoyed with a three-putt on the 15th when he had a makeable birdie putt that would have sent him to 17 under par, and a bad tee-shot on the last hole, which also led to a dropped shot, Mason once again played superb golf and was a satisifed man after completing his round.
The current European Seniors Tour Order of Merit leader almost nonchalantly rolled in 35 foot eagle putt, that travelled up two tiers of the par five second green, to get off to a great start. “It was a beautiful putt from just off the green and of course, it gives you a lot of confidence straight away,” he said.
Mason then uncharacteristically pulled his wedge on the short 105-yard par three third onto the left fringe. “I wasn’t thinking about the shot properly and that was sloppy,” was his verdict, after it duly yielded a rare three-putt.
However, he then “came back with a vengeance” after recording a four-in-a-row birdie blitz on holes five through eight, to eventually go out in 31 strokes.
A birdie at the par five 14th was followed by the three-putt and dropped shot on the 15th, but he immediately hit back with another birdie, on the 552-yards par five 16th. The bogey on the last denied Mason his 66, but he was still happy with his score.
“I didn’t think I’d shoot 67 again, or expect to have a four shot lead, but I’ll certainly take it,” he admitted. “I’m very pleased with the way I played and I’m just feeling good and very comfortable on the golf course at the moment.”
His nearest challenger, South Africa’s John Bland, recovered from a double bogey on the first hole to shoot his three under par 69, which included seven birdies.
Bland is determined not to let Mason have it all his own way in their final round tussle, as he bids to win his second European Seniors Tour title, having won the London Masters in 1995.
He said: “I’ve dropped seven shots on just three holes this week and if it wasn’t for that I’d be up there with Carl. I’m playing well and making a lot of birdies. There are just one or two holes, where I’m getting a bad bounce or finding trouble, that are costing me. But I’m pleased with the way I am playing and am looking forward to playing with Carl and Costantino in the final group.”
Speaking about his 71, Rocca said: “I putted like a dog and missed a couple of short putts for birdies. I will have to do better tomorrow. I hope to shoot 61 – and Carl a 70!”
The potentially very exciting final 18 holes involving Mason, Bland and Rocca, will get underway at high-noon on Sunday when the trio tee-off for the last-day action of the 51st PGA Championship at the Stoke-by-Nayland Club.