Senior Tour debutant Frankie Minoza of the Philippines joined joint overnight leader Boonchu Ruangkit of Thailand at the top of the leaderboard on day two of The Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by the Stapleford Forum.
On another day of soaring temperatures at the Empire Hotel and Country Club in Brunei, Minoza carded a joint lowest of the day 66 to move to nine under par, level with Ruangkit.
Minoza, who won the 2007 Philippine Open aged 46 to claim his maiden Asian Tour title, notched three birdies either side of the turn, with the only blip coming at the par four eighth hole.
The 50 year old will now bid to become the first player to triumph on his Senior Tour debut since American Michael Allen won the 2009 US Senior PGA Championship.
He said: “I’m obviously happy to be in the lead. My all-round game was good today, particularly my driving. The course is really good – it’s just the humidity that’s the problem. It’s lucky we’re using buggies between holes! Tomorrow I just need to play my normal game and take it shot by shot, hole by hole. I’m confident I can win the title, but this game is crazy so you never know until it’s finished.”
Minoza will be paired in the final round by Ruangkit, who would have held the lead outright were it not for a bogey on the final hole.
The Thai ace was unable to reproduce the fireworks of the opening day, when he shot a 64, but three birdies in a round of 69 have still put him in sight of his maiden Senior Tour title.
He said: He said: “I lost in the play-off during last year’s Brunei Open, so I know this course well and it suits my game. Obviously it was disappointing to bogey the last hole, but apart from that I played well. I’m happy with my game, but I think Frankie could shine tomorrow. He’s a big hitter, whereas my driving wasn’t so good today. So I’m not very confident of winning, because Frankie’s playing so well! But we’ll see.”
South African Chris Williams is hot on the leaders’ tails after carding six birdies in a round of 66 to move to eight under par.
He said: “I played very much the same as yesterday, managing to find most of the fairways. I’m hitting my irons very nicely this week, and a couple of putts are also going which always makes a difference. I knocked in quite a lot of birdie putts from ten feet or more, particularly on the front nine. I was starting to get slightly tired towards the end of my round, but overall I was pretty pleased with the way I played, and hopefully I can keep it up in the final round.”
Joint overnight leader David Merriman slipped back to fourth place on seven under par after signing for a level par round of 71, but still feels he can win the event.
He said: “I didn’t change anything from yesterday – sometimes you feel really in the zone and you’re just looking at the flag all day, but today maybe I just wasn’t quite on it. Sometimes you get out on the golf course and you can walk into a perfect set-up and just see the line, but today was more of a struggle.
“Tomorrow I’ve still got a chance to win the tournament, but obviously I’ve got to shoot a good round. I played with Frankie [Minoza] today and he shot a 66. He’s a great player a really great ball striker, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him go out and shoot a low score again tomorrow. I’ll probably have to shoot a 66 to win, but it’s possible.”
A round of 66 saw American Jerry Bruner join Japan’s Katsuyoshi Tomori in a share of fifth place on six under par, with England’s Roger Chapman, defending champion Mike Cunning of America and South African Bobby Lincoln a further two shots back in tied seventh.
European Tour champion Chapman, who shot a level par round of 71, said: “I’m coping ok with heat, drinking about 15 bottles of water and the buggies definitely help. I’ve been in South Africa for three weeks on holiday and did a bit of practising out there, so I got used to the heat. I also played in Asia on The European Tour so know what to expect, and I also believe that next week in Thailand is meant to be even hotter, so that should be interesting!”
Further down the field, Scotland’s Sam Torrance and Wales’ Ian Woosnam – who between them have won the John Jacobs Trophy in four of the last five years – enjoyed better days, carding respective rounds of 68 and 69 to finish on one under par.
Woosnam said: “I played a little bit nicer today – I think I only missed about three greens. In the end it could’ve been a little bit better than a 69, but I was just really pleased to play a little bit better than yesterday and hopefully tomorrow I can get a little bit more confidence and go even lower. When you’re struggling a little bit with your game you keep trying different things, and then when something works you get a get a bit more confidence and start playing well again, so hopefully that’s what’ll happen on the final day.”
His fellow Masters Tournament winner Sandy Lyle of Scotland carded a round of 72 to finish on three over par.