Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open. (Getty Images)
Mike Harwood made it a day to remember for his native Australia by grabbing the lead of the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open at the same time as Ricky Ponting’s men were taking charge of the fourth Ashes test match.
Whilst Peter Siddle and co. were tearing through England’s batting line-up at Headingley, Harwood was busy mastering Golf Club Bad Ragaz in Switzerland to finish day one on six under par, one shot clear of South African John Bland, American Bob Boyd and Scotland’s Gordon Brand Jnr.
The highlight of Harwood’s round of 65, which featured five birdies, was an eagle two at the seventh hole, with a closing bogey the only blemish.
The man from Melbourne has not registered a top ten finish since his third place in the DGM Barbados Open on his second Senior Tour appearance in March, but is now starting to reap the rewards of some recent tinkering with his swing.
Harwood said: “I just somehow managed to hit it straight today – which hasn’t happened for a while! I got off to a great start to the season with a third in Barbados, but there hasn’t been too much to write home about since then. I made a few changes to my swing – I haven’t got a coach, so I had to figure out myself where I’ve been going wrong. Today was definitely an improvement – my approach play was particularly strong – and hopefully I can keep it up for the next couple of days.”
His playing partner Brand Jnr has enjoyed a more consistent campaign – he currently lies in 25th place in The Order of Merit – but is still in search of a first victory in his second season on the Senior Tour, with runner-up his best finish in The De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship last year.
Brand Jnr, seven times a winner on The European Tour, took advantage of perfect playing conditions at Golf Club Bad Ragaz – which is situated around 60 miles south-east of Zurich – to post six birdies and a solitary bogey.
He said: “I was pretty pleased with how I played today – my all-round game was very good. I just hit one bad tee shot on the 16th, when I couldn’t decide which club to hit and got punished with a bogey. But other than that my game was pretty solid, as it has been all year.
“It’s my first visit here, and it’s a lovely place so I’ll definitely be coming back. To be fair, I haven’t been anywhere in Switzerland which isn’t nice, but this place is particularly beautiful. Conditions were perfect for scoring, and I’m just glad I was able to take advantage of them. There’s still a couple of days to go, but I’m feeling good.”
Brand Jnr was joined on five under par by Bland, who closed with three birdies in his round of 65, whilst Boyd went out in just 31 in his flawless round.
His compatriot Doug Johnson also kept the bogeys off the card in his round of 66 to move to four under par, alongside Argentine Horacio Carbonetti and Australian Mike Clayton.
The event also marked a milestone for two of the Senior Tour’s elder statesmen, as England’s Maurice Bembridge drew level with his compatriot Tommy Horton on 242 appearances, whilst Northern Ireland’s Eddie Polland brought up his double century.