England’s David J Russell fired a superb 67 to establish a two stroke lead at the halfway mark of The De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship as his close friend Ian Woosnam also strengthened his own title bid.
Russell – more commonly known as DJ – negotiated the tricky Hunting Course at De Vere Slaley Hall with six birdies and only one bogey on his card to move to six under par 138 for the Championship.
He is two strokes clear of Paraguay’s Angel Franco and South African Chris Williams, while former World Number One Woosnam is five strokes back on one under par in a share of sixth place alongside another former Ryder Cup Captain, Sam Torrance.
Russell, who was one of Woosnam’s Assistant Captains at The 2006 Ryder Cup, has finished runner up nine times on the European Senior Tour but his mastery of the Hunting Course, particularly a bogey free front nine, suggested that this could be the week he breaks that duck.
“That was an amazing score today really,” said the two-time European Tour winner. “To break 70 out there takes some doing. Everything was working – the putting and some luck where you need it. It is a very tough golf course.
“The PGA Seniors Championship is one of our biggest events and it’s our oldest Senior event so it would be a wonderful place to make that breakthrough on a golf course that is probably the toughest we play all year, including Carnoustie.”
After finishing ninth in Thailand in March, and posting three other top ten finishes so far this season, Russell believes he is returning to his best form.
“I’ve not scored as well as I’ve played lately so to now get into contention is great,” said the 56 year old. “People have been scoring really low on this Tour recently – Bill Longmuir went ballistic in Leicestershire and Gordon Brand Jnr in Jersey – so this week the scoring is higher and you feel like if you have a few decent holes you can get in contention, rather than having to shoot course records.”
Russell runs a golf course design company called RAW Golf Design with former Masters Champion Woosnam and he is relishing being ahead of his friend both in the Championship and by six places -32nd compared to 38th - in the Senior Tour Order of Merit.
“I’ll have to remind Woosie not to wake me up tomorrow when he goes out earlier than me!” he joked.
Joining Russell in the final group for the third round will be Franco and Williams, the two men who shared second place behind Carl Mason in last year’s Championship.
They signed for rounds of 68 and 69 respectively to share second place on four under par, while Scotland’s Ross Drummond is a shot further back after a 69 and Des Smyth, another of Woosnam’s Assistant Captain’s at The K Club, is on two under par following a 71.
Woosnam only dropped on shot in his round of 70 and after a slow start to the 2010 season, the Welshman feels he is finally finding some form.
“I played a bit better today,” said the 52 year old. “I tried something different on the practice ground and that seemed to work so hopefully I can get a bit of confidence from that.
“I just played steady. I had a couple of bad shots but everybody hits bad shots around here and I didn’t have too many. I managed to get it up and down when I needed to and also hit a couple of good shots too which is encouraging for me.”
Torrance posted a one under par 71 to also finish on one under par while Senior Tour debutant Barry Lane is level par for the tournament after also signing for a 71.
Defending champions Mason celebrated his 57th birthday with a 72 to stay on one over par, one shot ahead of former Masters and Open Champion Sandy Lyle who is in a share of 21st place after a 72.
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