Chris Williams’ affinity for De Vere Slaley Hall continued as the South African fired the first sub-70 round of The De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship to capture the early second round clubhouse lead.
Williams made his European Senior Tour debut at the Northumberland resort last year after securing his place in the field at the last minute as he prepared to pre-qualify and finished in a share of second place behind winner Carl Mason.
That top ten finish secured him subsequent Senior Tour starts during the 2009 season and the 51 year old went on to card two more top five finishes as he ended the year in 19th position on the Order of Merit.
After a three under par round of 69, which included five birdies, Williams is hoping he can once again take advantage of The Hunting Course at Slaley Hall after moving to four under par for the tournament.
“Last year was the tournament that launched my Senior Tour career, you could say,” said Williams. “I came out here last year to pre-qualify and when I was having a practice round one of the officials came up to me and said I was in the tournament and I ended up coming second.
“From there it has just snowballed and I’ve started to play a lot better. I’m still competing on the main Tour in South Africa and that has kept my edge – playing against guys half my age.
“I’d like to think I’m getting close to that first win but there are so many good players coming on to the Tour every year. You have Barry Lane this week and Andrew Oldcorn this year so it is tougher to win all the time. You have to have a good game but my game is good at the moment. I feel more comfortable being in this position so hopefully I can get the chances and win my first tournament. “
Williams dropped a shot on the second hole but posted birdies on the fourth, eighth and 11th holes before another bogey on the 13th. He then carded back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th holes to set the clubhouse target.
“I missed a few putts on the front nine but overall I was pretty consistent,” he said. “Every hole was pretty much the same for me. I kept it in play and hit every green so it is just a question of how many putts go in the hole. There are a couple of tough holes out there but apart from that the course is out there for the taking and I am surprised that no-one has shot lower so far. The course is not that long and the greens are running great.”
Former Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam signed for a round of 70 and is eyeing a weekend charge at the title.
“I played a bit better today,” said the Welshman. “I tried something different on the practice ground and that seemed to work and hopefully I can get a bit of confidence from that.
“I was out in one under came back out in one under. Anything under par on that front nine is really good. If the weather stays like it is and wind gets up, two or three under could win it. A lot of the guys will be thinking about it, who’s going to win, and it will be interesting.”
Debutant Barry Lane, who turned 50 on Monday, is one shot further adrift following a round of 71 as he looks to become the youngest winner in Senior Tour history.
He said: “I played beautifully today and just three putted seven and eight. I’m in there though– that’s the main thing. It would be fantastic to win. I’ve enjoyed the week so far, I’m just not holing anything.”
Defending champion Carl Mason had looked on course to make it a 57th birthday to remember but a double bogey sixth on his penultimate hole – the eighth after starting on the tenth tee – meant he had to settle for a level par 72 to stay on one over par for the championship.
His fellow Englishman John Hoskison posted the first hole in one of the tournament when he aced the 183 yard par three 17th hole with a six iron.
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