Spaniard Domingo Hospital will carry a slender lead into the final round of the Sicilian Senior Open, where he will not only bid to break his Senior Tour duck but also seek to emulate his nephew and namesake Agustin Domingo Hospital.
Hospital Jnr triumphed on Sicilian soil on the Alps Tour, and his uncle is on course to make it a family double after a flawless round of 67 moved him to seven under par, one stroke clear of Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti.
Hospital, whose runner-up finish at the 2008 Parkridge Polish Seniors Championship is the closest he has come to sampling success since turning 50, turned in 34 after birdies at the second and seventh holes at Il Picciolo Golf Club, which is overlooked by Europe’s largest active volcano, Mount Etna.
After saving par from 12 feet on the demanding 11th hole, Hospital made further gains at the 13th, 15th and 18th holes – the last courtesy of a putt from ten feet – to put him in pole position to claim his first Senior Tour title in his third year on Tour.
The 52 year old from Barcelona said: “It was a very good day, especially on the greens. My par putts on the 11th and 14th holes were so important to keep my momentum going. The 14th was playing so tough, so to make par there was almost like a birdie. Most of my birdie putts were also from reasonable range – I only had one tap-in for birdie. The greens were a little bit spongy after the rain we had yesterday, so to putt as well as I did was very pleasing. It’s one of the tightest courses I’ve ever played, so 67 is a very good round.
“My nephew won in Sicily on the Alps Tour, so I have to try to keep it in the family! It would be a funny thing if I could do the same, so I’ll be trying to win for him tomorrow – and also for myself, of course. I’ll probably speak to him later tonight – I sometimes give him advice, but it’s not always good advice! He’s won once on the Alps Tour this season and he’s in the top ten of the Order of Merit, so he’s doing quite well. Hopefully he can win again and climb the Order of Merit, and I can win here to end my season on a high. Anything could happen tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Carbonetti has the edge in terms of experience, having captured two titles in his eight years on the Senior Tour.
The Argentine started like a train with birdies at the first and second holes, before adding another at the seventh; and despite dropping a shot with his only bogey of the day at the at the tough 14th, he signed for a round of 68 to move to six under par.
Andrew Oldcorn is one shot further back after the Scot also carded a round of 68 which included five birdies.
His one dropped shot came at the 15th – the “easiest hole on the course” – where he took three putts from all of ten feet after rushing his birdie attempt past the hole.
But the 50 year old from Edinburgh bounced back with a closing birdie which increased his chances of securing a maiden Senior Tour title in his debut season.
He said: “The bogey on the 15th was a very stupid mistake, but it was symptomatic of my day really, because I putted poorly from close range and yet sunk three putts from 20 feet or more. But overall I played much better today than I did yesterday, and a round of 68 puts me in a pretty good position for tomorrow. I’d prefer to be leading than chasing – I led going into the final round for my three wins on the main Tour. But I’m still pretty confident of my chances.
“I was much more aggressive today than I was on the opening day – I used my driver much more, and if you can keep it straight it gives you a pretty decent advantage. So I’ll probably go with the same strategy again tomorrow. The tournament probably won’t really get going until the 11th tee – whoever handles those last eight holes the best will probably come out on top.”
Overnight leader Graham Gunn is in fourth place on four under after a level par round of 72. The Canadian stretched his lead with birdies at the third and sixth holes, but slipped back into the pack after a double bogey at the 17th hole.
American Jerry Bruner leapt into contention with a stunning finish, as he covered the last three holes in four under par to join England’s Roger Chapman and Argentine Luis Carbonetti – whose round of 66 was the lowest of the day – in a share of fifth place on three under par.
England’s Carl Mason stands a slight chance of surpassing his compatriot Tommy Horton’s record haul of 23 Senior Tour titles after a round of 69 which moved him to two under par, the same mark as Chilean Angel Fernandez.