The Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters - Round Two (Getty Images)
Australian David Merriman fired the lowest round of his European Senior Tour career to take a one shot lead going into the final round of the Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum.
Merriman carded a flawless six under par round of 65 at The Empire Hotel and Country Club which included an eagle at the par four sixth hole to surge through the field following his opening round 70.
The 54 year old birdied the first two holes before his eagle two as he reached the turn in 31 and he kept up the momentum on the way in by picking up shots on the 12th and 14th holes.
A run of pars then ensured the Sydney professional shaved a stroke off his previous Senior Tour lowest round of 66 set in the OKI Castellόn Open de España in 2007.
He goes into the final round on seven under par, a stroke clear of overnight leader Bob Cameron of England, who shot a 69, and American Mike Cunning who signed for a 67. Cunning’s compatriot Doug Johnson, playing in his first tournament on the Senior Tour since a horrific accident left him battling for his life last April, is also in contention a further stroke back after a stunning 64.
Merriman, who won the 2006 Senior Tour Qualifying School, said his hot putter was the key to his fine round, which now puts him in pole position to beat his previous best Senior Tour finishes of third in The Midas English Seniors Open and the OKI Castellόn Open de España, both of which came in the 2007 season.
“I got off to a really solid start holing a 15 footer on the first for birdie and an eight footer on the second also for birdie,” said Merriman, who finished 22nd in the 2008 Order of Merit.
“My putting was great all through the round but I also drove well – I think I only missed one fairway throughout the whole round and my iron shots were hitting the middle of the greens every time.
“I pretty much two or one putted all the way around so I’m delighted. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. It’s the first time I’ve event led a European Senior Tour event going into the final day so I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I’ll just go out tomorrow play my own game and see what happens.”
Cameron once again had an eventful round, following his opening round 67 with four birdies and two bogeys to move to six under par for the tournament while Cunning carded six birdies and a double bogey six on the 11th hole to join him in a tie for second.
However the story of the day was provided by his fellow American Johnson who carded an amazing eight birdies and just the single bogey for his 64 to move to five under par, two strokes behind leader Merriman.
Johnson played the first two events of the 2008 season before suffering severe burns when the carburettor of a van he was trying to fix exploded, leaving him in hospital for 21 days with his life hanging in the balance.
Playing with a protective strapping on his arm following a gruelling 10 month rehabilitation programme, the 58 year old admitted just being out on the course meant so much to him.
“That was the most fun I’ve had in nearly a year,” he said. “The doctors said to me after the accident, ‘If you thought you were tough before, now you’ll be bullet proof’. I’m lucky to be in Brunei and I’m just happy to be upright. Nobody appreciates being here more than I do.
“Following the accident I constantly have to keep stretching six hours every day. I lay on a bed and thought about playing for the past year. I just tried to stay calm.
It’s nice to not feel nervous, bogeys are bogeys but they just don’t affect me now.”
Elsewhere former Italian Ryder Cup player Costantino Rocca carded a 66 to move to four under par, three shots off the pace, while Sam Torrance is two under par after a 69 and Sandy Lyle a stroke further back.