Ian Woosnam looks set to consolidate his place at the top of the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit after a five under par 67 gave him in a share of the lead after the first round of the Pestovo Russian Seniors Open at Pestovo Golf & Yacht Club near Moscow.
Former Ryder Cup Captain, Woosnam, goes into the second round tied with England’s Jeff Hall and Scotland’s Bill Longmuir and one shot ahead of England’s Nick Job.
John Chillas, Angel Franco, David Merriman, Peter Owen, Bertus Smit and Simon Owen all share fifth place after recording two under par rounds of 70.
Woosnam came to Moscow with a meagre €45 lead over Bernhard Langer at the top of the money list but now has a great chance to extend that considerably after a fine round that included six birdies and just one three-putt bogey on the 457-yard par four 16th.
The Welshman started strongly with birdies at the first and third. He gained another shot with a 25-foot putt for birdie on the 441 yard par four seventh before briefly topping the leaderboard all on his own with further birdies on the ninth and 14th.
“It was a good solid round,” he said. “I started pretty strongly but lost a bit of concentration when the pace of play slowed up coming home. I’m in great shape to make a move tomorrow.”
Longmuir was forced to borrow a set of clubs from Pestovo’s Scottish Director of Golf, Stephen Dundas, after his own clubs were lost in transit to Russia. He also had to wear a pair of training shoes belonging to his son and caddie, Callum, but that did not stop him firing a 67 which included a dramatic eagle at the 537 yard par five ninth where he hit a three wood into the green and then holed out from 55 feet.
“Under the circumstances that’s got to be one of my best rounds of the season,” said the man who won the seventh Seniors Tour title of his career at the season-opening DGM Barbados Open at Royal Westmoreland.
“Stephen lent me a set of Titleists the same as mine but the lofts and lies were different so they took a bit of getting used to. Mind you, I played pretty decently so maybe it won’t be too much of a hardship if my own set doesn’t turn up in time for tomorrow.”
Hall came into the event languishing in 59th place on the money after a series of events in which his putting let him down. He started the round by missing a chance on the second but then fired six birdies over the next seven holes to race to the turn in 30.
The Englishman got to seven under when he hit his third shot to within two inches of the hole on the 537-yard par-5 10th but then dropped shots on the 12th, 13th, carded another birdie on the 409 yard par four 16th, before hitting a five iron 210-yard over the green on the 457-yard par-4 to drop back to five under par.
“I was flying after ten holes but then hit a couple of loose shots that cost me a bit,” he said. “But I’m still delighted. I have hit the ball well all season but my putting has been horrendous and it’s only today they started to drop.”
Further down the leaderboard, American Jerry Bruner started his July 4th celebrations early with a one under par 71 which gave him a tie for eleventh place with John Mashego, Kevin Spurgeon, Denis O’Sullivan, Bob Cameron and David J. Russell while Ryder Cup players, Gordon J. Brand, Maurice Bembridge and Eamonn Darcy were all in the large group on level par 72.
The inaugural Pestovo Russian Seniors Open has attracted one of the strongest fields of the year and many of the Tour’s leading names are still in contention after the opening 18 holes.
Carl Mason and Sam Torrance, who between them have shared the last five Order of Merit titles, both carded rounds of one over par 73 to share 28th place alongside a large group including former PGA champion Tony Johnstone, Italian Ryder Cup star Costantino Rocca and 72 year-old former Open champion Bob Charles.
Torrance, however, was disappointed with his performance. “It is one of those days,” said the Scot. “I hit the ball as well as I’ve done for years but couldn’t buy a putt. It’s all a bit frustrating.”