Sandy Lyle will take a two stroke lead into the final round of the ISPS Handa Senior World Championship presented by Mission Hills China as the Scot looks to end his three year wait for a maiden European Senior Tour victory.
The two-time Major Champion carded a second round 66 over the World Cup Course at Mission Hills to move to ten under par 134 for the tournament, with overnight leader Peter Fowler of Australia second on eight under par following a 69.
A magnificent scoring run in the middle of his round ignited Lyle’s challenge, as the former Open and Masters Champion looks to secure a first tournament victory in 19 years, since he won the last of his 18 European Tour titles in the 1992 Volvo Masters.
The 53 year old, whose long hitting is suited to the Jack Nicklaus-designed course in China, carded three consecutive birdies from the sixth hole before eagling the ninth when he holed his 135yard wedge approach shot.
He added further birdies on the 11th and 16th holes before dropping his only shot of the day with a closing bogey on the 18th.
“The three birdies and then the eagle at nine really changed the game,” said Lyle. “That gave me an extra confidence boost.
“I haven’t won on the Senior Tour so a win would be very nice. Plus it’s been nearly 20 years since I last won a tournament.
“There’s no game plan tomorrow just to put numbers on the board and get off to a good start. I haven’t played with Peter Fowler in a long time so that will be nice too.
“I’ve heard so much about Mission Hills. It’s nice to finally get a chance to see what it’s all about. It’s definitely spectacular. The World Cup Course is a very, very fine golf course. It is a great test of your skills, testing on length, undulating greens, water and sand. It is a fantastic golf course.”
Lyle currently leads the Senior Tour Order of Merit after finishing second in the Handa Australian Senior Open – his best finish since joining the Senior Tour in 2008 - and tied fifth in the Handa Cup Senior Masters in Japan.
His closest rival in China is Fowler, who is also chasing a maiden Senior Tour win after a recent upturn in his form following an injury plagued two years. The 51 year old former BMW International Open winner carded five birdies in his round of 69 but blotted his scorecard with a double bogey five on the par three fifth hole.
Paraguay’s Angel Franco, another played hoping to become a first time Senior Tour winner after seven runners up finishes, is third on six under par after also signing for a 69.
Round of the day belonged to Zimbabwe’s Tony Johnstone who fired nine birdies in his 64 to move to fourth place on five under par.
It also proved a good day for the Senior Tour’s two former Ryder Cup Captains, with Sam Torrance posting a 69 to move to a share of fifth place with Gary Wolstenholme on four under par, and Ian Woosnam a shot further back after a 68.
Woosnam is one of five players tied for seventh place on three under par, along with the 2010 Order of Merit winner Boonchu Ruangkit of Thailand.