Bill Longmuir will take a four stroke lead into the final round of the Handa Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum as he tries to deny John Harrison and Boonchu Ruangkit a place in the record books.
Longmuir started the day with a four stroke advantage over the field following a stunning opening round nine under par 64 – his lowest to par on the European Senior Tour – and maintained that advantage with a 69 to move to 13 under par for the tournament.
Harrison and Ruangkit each carded rounds of 67 to share second place on nine under par and both will have their sights on re-writing the record books in the final round, with Harrison bidding to become the youngest Senior Tour winner and Ruangkit targeting his fourth straight Senior Tour victory.
However it is Longmuir who is firmly in pole position to capture his eighth Senior Tour title and first victory since the DGM Barbados Open in 2008, despite having started the week with no semblance of form, with his best finish in four appearances in 2010 so far tied 17th in Brunei.
The Scot posted four birdies in the opening five holes of his second round at Stapleford Park and picked up further shots on the eighth and tenth holes before blotting his scorecard with a double bogey seven on the par five 11th – a hole he eagled in his first round.
He regained one of those shots with a birdie on the 15th and although he then surrendered it again with a bogey on the 17th, Longmuir insisted he was delighted with his day’s work.
“I’m pleased with my performance even though I had a bit of trouble with my swing,” he said. “My son Callum, who’s caddying for me, said I was swinging a bit fast, so I tried to change that but ended up changing the wrong bit before I corrected it.
“I did hit out of bounds on the 11th so I didn’t do as well as I could of but I also still hit a few birdies today. I am feeling confident, largely due to the work of my good friend Michael Wolseley (the ex-European Tour professional) in the United States, who has done a lot for my game.
“I’m confident in my own game for tomorrow but you can never tell what someone else will shoot.”
Runaway Order of Merit leader Ruangkit, of Thailand, posted an eagle and five birdies in his round as he continued the remarkable form he has shown in 2010 in winning the past three events in Brunei, Thailand and South Africa.
“I came to Europe not expecting to get my fourth win in a row - I came here to get more experience of the weather and the greens,” he said. “I’m still a way behind the leader so I’m not sure how tomorrow will go but I’m getting more used to the greens, even though they are not as fast as the Far East.
“I’m the only senior from Thailand here, but next year I hope there will be more. I want to show players at home that they can come to Europe and do well.”
Debutant Harrison, who came of Senior Tour age on May 6, could become the youngest winner on the Senior Tour at 50 years and eight days tomorrow – eclipsing by one day the record set by John Bland when the South African won the London Masters in 1995.
The Matfen Hall professional, winner of the Senior Tour Qualifying School last November, posted an eagle on the 11th hole in addition to six birdies and two bogeys to sign for a six under par round.
“I was only looking for a steady tournament this week but I’m really happy to be up there and I got more confident as the round went on,” he said.
“Yesterday I didn’t play fantastically but I was pleased with three under. I played better today and I am in some sort of contention which is great.
“I’m confident of holding a good position tomorrow. If you make a few birdies early on and get off to a quick start on this course you will be in a good position. Personally if I’m up there in that top six I would be really pleased for my first event.”
Leading Senior Tour money winner Carl Mason, who could also make history by matching Tommy Horton’s record of 23 Senior Tour titles, and Ireland’s Des Smyth are a further shot back on eight under par. Another debutant, former PGA Championship winner Andrew Oldcorn of Scotland, signed for a four under par 69 to move to three under par.
After starting with a bogey on the first hole, Sam Torrance posted three birdies for a 71 to finish level par for the tournament, while fellow former Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam recovered from dropping four shots in three holes to shoot a level par 73 and lies one shot further back on one over par.