Englishman Glenn Ralph continued his recent resurgence as he fired a two under par 70 for a three-way share of the lead in The De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship with Delroy Cambridge and Luis Carbonetti.
Ralph, who won the Cleveland Golf/Srixon Scottish Senior Open last year, has been battling a mysterious illness which has caused him to lose two stone in weight but, despite feeling weaker as a consequence, he showed few ill effects on the Hunting Course at De Vere Slaley Hall, in Northumberland.
After a bogey on the second hole, Ralph posted birdies on the sixth, 11th, 15th and 16th holes before dropping a shot on the tricky closing hole when his four foot par putt slid agonisingly past the cup.
That meant he had to settle for a share of the lead with Jamaican Cambridge, who dropped a shot on his final hole, and Argentine Carbonetti, who also posted four birdies but blotted his scorecard with a double bogey six on the par four eighth hole.
Despite his frustration on the last, Ralph was satisfied with his start as he looks to build on a share of third place at the Handa Irish Senior Open presented by Fáilte Ireland a fortnight ago.
“I played really solid and drove the ball really well,” he said. “I think that is going to be important round here this week. I chipped pretty well when I missed the greens, which was also important as the greens are in great condition but they are very quick.
“The course is very fiery – they’ve obviously not had any rain for a while but the conditions – the fringes and the greens – are excellent. It is a course you have to position yourself round. You have some fantastic holes – nine and 18 are very tricky and will be critical this week.
“The illness I have is strange – they think it could be diabetes – and it is making me lose weight and feel weaker so I’m hitting the ball very short but fortunately quite straight which actually helps around here.”
Ralph said his victory at Fairmont St Andrews last year has given him the confidence that he can build on his maiden professional title.
“Everyone said I was a good player before I won in Scotland and they said I should win but until you do it you are always wondering if you can,” he said. “After you do it you are wondering when your next one will be and I nearly did it in Ireland so you never know, this might be another week. “
Former Ryder Cup player Gordon Brand Jnr, who was runner up to namesake Gordon J Brand in 2008 on his Senior Tour debut in the Championship, is in a group of eight players one stroke back after a 71.
Sam Torrance, the 2002 Ryder Cup Captain, opened with a level par 72 while former World Number One Ian Woosnam, the 2006 Ryder Cup Captain, is a further shot back after a 73 – the same total as Barry Lane who is making his Senior Tour debut after turning 50 on Monday.
Lane was two under par after seven holes but after dropping a shot on the eighth, the five-time European Tour winner then had back-to-back bogeys on the par five 11th and 12th holes. He regained one of those shots on the 13th but another bogey on the 16th meant he had to settle for a share of 21st position.
He said: “It was very tricky, bouncy and windy and I made a couple of stupid mistakes on the 11th and 12th from the middle of the fairway. I made two sixes on par fives, one going in with a six iron and the other I was 20 yards short of the green in two so it was a bit silly really.
“And then I bogeyed 16 from 80 yards short of the green but other than that I actually played quite nicely but it was very tricky and you could get caught out quite easily. You just have to battle along but thoroughly enjoyed it and looking forward to the next three days.”
Former Open and Masters Champion Sandy Lyle rallied after an opening nine 40 to post a hat-trick of birdies as he signed for a 74, five shots behind the leading trio.
• Due to the World Cup football match between England and Germany on Sunday which starts at 3pm, the timings for the final round of The De Vere Collection PGA Senior Championship have been brought forward. All players will start between 8.00am and 10.00am from the 1st and 10th tees. The tournament will finish no later than 2:30pm.
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