Peter Fowler came out on top in the battle of the Australians with Mike Harwood to take a one stroke lead into the final round of ISPS Handa Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum.
Close friends Fowler and Harwood, who are sharing a house together close to the Stapleford Park course, had shared the overnight lead and were neck and neck all through the second round until Harwood closed with a bogey.
With Scotland’s Andrew Oldcorn, who had joined the pair at the top of the leaderboard, also dropping a shot on the 18th, Fowler will took the outright lead as he chases a maiden European Senior Tour title.
On a blustery day in Melton Mowbray, England, which left only nine players under par for the tournament, former BMW International Open winner Fowler produced a solid two under par round of 71, picking up shots on the seventh and 15th holes.
“It was a bit windier out there today which made scoring more difficult,” said Fowler. “It was a tough day but I played pretty good.
“I wouldn’t have taken that score before I went out but I certainly would have taken the way I played. I thought I could have done better today but I’m in a great position and I’m playing well so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
Fowler has struggled with a back injury since joining the Senior Tour in June 2009 but has been in better condition and form during the 2011 campaign, finishing runner up to Sandy Lyle in the ISPS Handa Senior World Championship presented by Mission Hills China in March.
With two other top ten finishes to his credit, Fowler now feels he is ready to open his account on the Senior Tour.
“I’ve been playing well over the last six months and won a few smaller events in Australia and had a couple of chances now on the Senior Tour, so that always helps to get you thinking right again,” he said.
“I’m just playing better so I will have more chances. I started feeling better in November last year and I’m feeling pretty good at the moment.”
Fowler will have two former PGA Championship winners to contend with in Harwood and Oldcorn, who signed for rounds of 72 and 71 respectively.
Both players birdied the opening two holes to move clear of Fowler early in the round but it was mistakes on the final hole that cost them a share of the lead.
Oldcorn, who is also chasing his maiden Senior Tour title, also picked up birdies on the fifth and 15th holes but bogeyed the tenth and then left his approach shot to the last short of the green and then failed to get up and down.
Harwood, who picked up birdies on the 11th and 15th but also dropped shots on the seventh and 12th, found the water on the last and could have been worse off still had it not been for a fine 12ft bogey putt.
“I played well for about 12 holes but I struggled on the last half dozen,” he said. “ I hit three really poor shots – bad wedges on 16 and 17 when I missed the green and then a total mis-club on the last from the tee into the water. That was a bit disappointing but at the end of the day I made a fantastic five and I’m still in contention. I could have been three shots worse with the way I played the last three holes but I’m in a good position.”
Irishman Des Smyth is two shots off the lead after bogeying the final hole for round of 70, while former Ryder Cup player Gordon Brand Jnr and 2010 Senior Tour Order of Merit winner Boonchu Ruankgit are in a five way share of fifth place on one under par.
Former World Number One Ian Woosnam recovered from a run of four consecutive bogeys from the fourth hole to card a one over par 74, leaving him one over for the tournament and in a share of 11th place.
Sam Torrance, another former Ryder Cup Captain, is back in tied 34th position on five over par following a second round 77 that began with an eagle two but also included a triple bogey eight on the fourth hole followed by four consecutive bogeys.
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