Australian Peter Fowler and Scotsman Bill Longmuir share the lead after the first round of the Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum following opening rounds of five under par 66.
Fowler climbed off his sick bed to set the clubhouse target at the Empire Hotel and Country Club, firing six birdies and just the single bogey on the par three seventh hole.
The 51 year old former European Tour winner, who is still looking for his maiden Senior Tour triumph, finished his rookie year in 29th place on the 2010 Senior Tour Order of Merit but a strong end to that campaign, and a share of sixth place in the 2011 season-opening Handa Australian Senior Open, has boosted his confidence.
Despite struggling with an overnight illness and the humid conditions, Fowler sank a 30ft birdie putt on the first hole and never looked back.
“I putted really well today which always important on the courses in Asia to get a good rhythm going on the greens,” he said. “I holed a nice 30ft putt on the first and they were all good from there on in.
“I wasn’t feeling very confident at all before the round, I’ve been ‘crook’ all night so I was just happy that I felt good enough to play this morning.
“I’m exhausted but pretty happy. It’s good to get a good rhythm going. It’s different when you’re an Asian player and these greens are second nature but for us guys who turn up for one week, you hopefully get out of bed on the right side and get the rhythm going on the greens. You get a bit of the X factor – it’s nothing to do with your stroke, it’s all down to reading the greens properly.
“I’ve been playing pretty steady for the past few months and my putting at the end of last season finally came good after a pretty bad year last year."
Longmuir, who is chasing his ninth Senior Tour title, condensed his five birdies into just ten holes after opening with a run of five straight pars.
The 57 year old year old is hoping for a ‘Stapleford double’ after also winning the inaugural Handa Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum last May.
He said: “I didn’t know what to expect this week as I’ve got a new set of golf clubs. I drove it really well though which I was overjoyed with because my back’s been a big problem for a long time now.
“I felt good with the driver although the two long drive holes I didn’t drive it so well. But I drove it miles today, long and straight which set me up nicely for the round.
“I never really felt like I was under any pressure. I was hitting a lot of greens and took 26 putts. I’ve just counted because I couldn’t believe it, but whenever I missed a green I was just off.
“All in all it was a very steady round. There were no massive fireworks. Carl Mason (his playing partner) is normally the steady one and I’m not but he was a little bit up and down today before he recovered the round nicely. But I was pleased overall.”
The leading pair are one stroke clear of a group of five players that includes 2009 Rookie of the Year Mike Harwood, Paraguay’s Angel Franco, Korean Sang-ho Choi, Jamnian Chitprasong of Thailand and Tsang-te Chen of Chinese Taipei.
Former Ryder Cup player Barry Lane is a further shot back on three under par while Mason, who is pursuing a record breaking 24th Senior Tour title, is on two under par following an opening round 69.
Mason’s total was matched by 2002 Ryder Cup Captain Sam Torrance, who had been flirting with the top of the leaderboard after four birdies in his opening 15 holes until a costly double bogey six on the par four 16th hole saw him slip back.
Defending champion Boonchu Ruangkit, whose victory in the event 12 months ago proved the catalyst to the Thai winning the 2010 Order of Merit, found the going a little tougher this time round, carding five birdies and four bogeys in his one under par opening round of 70.
Former Masters Champion and Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam is a further shot adrift on level par, while current Order of Merit leader and two-time Major Champion Sandy Lyle is one over par after a frustrating end to his round. The Scot was three under for the day through 14 holes but double bogeyed the 15th and followed that with back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th to lie six shots off the pace.