David J Russell ripped up the back nine to take the clubhouse lead during the first round of the Belas Clube de Campo Senior Open de Portugal with a seven under par round of 65.
The Englishman carded five birdies in the last six holes to enter the clubhouse two shots clear of American Doug Johnson, who briefly held the clubhouse lead after a five under par 67.
Russell got off to a perfect start when he birdied the opening hole, the 383 metre par four, before another birdie at the par five sixth at Belas Clube de Campo, near Lisbon.
But it was after the turn when the two time European Tour winners round really took flight, shooting a birdie on the 10th before an incredible run which saw him birdie the 13th, 14th, 15th and 17th holes before finishing just as he had started, with a superb three at the par four 18th.
“I holed a good putt at the first for a birdie but then I missed quite a few putts early on, I could have really got it going but then at the end everything I looked at went in,” enthused the 57 year old, who won his maiden Senior Tour title at the De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship last year.
“I played nicely but the course, if you’re driving to good positions it’s not that demanding from the fairways and you can get it really close and then if you hole the putts, obviously you’ll get a good score.”
Russell’s good round comes in the wake of tied 31st finish at the Cannes Mougins Masters last week, but it was a sterling performance in the Pro-Am tournament after the main event in France that gave him the momentum going into this week.
“I was playing reasonably well the last couple of tournaments and not really put a score together and then I played the Pro-Am after the Cannes Mougins Masters and shot 66,” he continued.
“I played with a bit more freedom. So I figured I would play a lot freer and not worry about where all the trouble was!”
Russell is chasing his first win of 2011 and has had an indifferent year, with four top 20s and two missed cuts in 15 appearances this season, but he did suffer a setback mid-way through the campaign when he was diagnosed with arthritis in his left knee.
“It’s not been a great year for me, I got injured starting around the time of the US Senior PGA Championship and my knee got really sore and it went into my back, so I was struggling to swing the club.
“It turned out I had got arthritis on my knee, so I’m taking anti-inflammatories and it’s a lot better but there’s nothing you can do.”
That didn’t stop him leading the field mid-way through the opening day at Belas Clube de Campo but Jerry Bruner was close on his tail through 12 holes.
Bruner was on fire, birdieing the second hole before a marvellous two on the par four sixth and three further birdies left him on six under par with six to play and one shot behind Russell.
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