Sam Torrance ended a difficult second round of the Berenberg Bank Masters on a high to share the lead with Angel Franco on two under par in South Africa and move firmly into contention for his 12th European Senior Tour title.
The 2002 Ryder Cup Captain used all of his experience of playing in windy conditions to card a battling one under par 72 amidst strong gusts which swirled around the notoriously unforgiving Links at Fancourt.
Only Torrance, Franco and England’s Roger Chapman, who trails the leading pair by two strokes, shot under par on a tough day at the Gary Player designed course.
After back-to-back birdies on the fourth and fifth holes, Torrance dropped a shot on the seventh hole before consecutive bogeys on the tenth, where he lost his ball, and 11th holes.
However he steadied himself on the way in, picking up a shot on the 14th and holing an 18ft birdie putt on the 16th hole before saving par with a superb up and down on the last to tie for the lead with the big hitting Franco, who birdied the 18th to give himself a chance of winning his maiden title.
Torrance compared the tricky conditions to those of a Senior Open Championship but admitted the wind played into his hands.
The Scot said: “I played fabulous today. I lost a ball on the tenth and bogeyed the 11th when I went off the back of the green but apart from that it was exemplary.
“It was a tough run in with the wind. The 17th is a difficult hole. I hit it on the green there then hit my first putt went 15ft past but then holed it.
“It was nice to get up and down on the last. I had a great drive and poor second shot – I duffed a three wood – before a good third shot which the wind took into the bunker. I’m in good shape though.
“It was extremely tough out there and you’ve got to keep your head. I love conditions like this though. I’ve got a good head so I just play my game and take whatever comes at you.”
Victory for Torrance on the Senior Tour’s first trip to South Africa would see the 56 year old return to the top of the Senior Tour Order of Merit, which he won last year ahead of Ian Woosnam.
The €75,000 first prize would take him past current leader Boonchu Ruangkit, of Thailand, who was a victim of the windy conditions at Fancourt, relinquishing his three stroke overnight advantage over Torrance after signing for a six over par 79 to trail by four shots going into the final round.
Torrance has begun the defence of the John Jacobs Trophy in fine fashion, with two top five finishes in three appearances in 2010 but played down his chances of adding another title to his collection.
“I’m feeling great and I’m just going to go out and do my best,” he said.
“I’m not even thinking about winning – I’m just going to go out and do my best but it would be nice to get another victory.
“It’s a great golf course – it’s very tough but if you are playing well it suits you. If you are having a bad day you wouldn’t want to be here but I’m playing well.”
Franco, who began the season with a share of third place in Mauritius, will be aiming to capture his maiden title having finished runner up on five occasions in two seasons on the Senior Tour.
Likewise Chapman will hope to avoid another near miss after finishing in the top three in two of his first three appearances on the Senior Tour after turning 50 last May.
Chapman has spent most of 2010 on holiday in South Africa, either side of the Senior Tour’s Far East swing, and he feels that preparation has given him a genuine chance of landing his maiden title.
“I played a lot of golf – a lot more than I would have done at home,” he said. “We had three weeks out here before Brunei ,in Cape Town playing at Royal Cape, Erinvale and Steenberg, and it was pretty hot, so going to Brunei and Bangkok didn’t seem that difficult.
“It all depends what they do with the pins tomorrow. I wouldn’t want another day with the wind like today. That was the toughest round of golf I’ve played for a long time
“It’s been a steady start to 2010 so far. To finish ninth, fourth and 11th – you’d take that. It’s great being in contention again going into the final round.”
Elsewhere Bertus Smith, winner of the 2009 Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open, is the leading South African after posting a 74 to lie in a share of fifth place with Giuseppe Cali.
Woosnam, the former World Number One and Ryder Cup Captain, posted a five over par 78, which moved him up nine places from tied 22nd at the start of play to a share of 13th position.