Jerry Bruner’s love affair with Portugal continued as he shared the overnight lead with England’s David J Russell after the opening round of the Belas Clube de Campo Senior Open de Portugal, with the two European Senior Tour veterans carding for seven under par rounds of 65.
Bruner’s last Senior Tour victory came in Portugal in 2005 and, in his final season of a distinguished career, the American will be hoping that memories of that victory will spur him on to success at the sun-kissed Belas Clube de Campo, near Lisbon.
He certainly produced some magic in the first round at Belas when, after a birdie on the second hold, he shot an eagle two at the par four fourth when his 128 yard pitch flew straight into the hole.
“I hit a decent drive and I had 128 to the flag and I started swinging with a smooth nine iron but I had wind behind me and I knew that would cancel out some of the slope on the green so I decided to hit a good, strong pitching wedge,” said the 64 year old.
“I was the first to get to the green and I only saw two balls, and I knew my ball was the only one close to the hole so I waited for the other guys to get there and said ‘it looks like somebody’s ball is in the hole’ and it turned out to be mine, so it was a good feeling.”
Further birdies at the sixth, 10th 11th, 12th, 13th and 15th holes lifted him to eight under par and the outright lead before a bogey on the 18th left him tied with Russell at the top and, while he was slightly disappointed not to shoot a score to mirror his age, he was still confident going into the second round.
“I was able to shoot 62 when I was 62, I shot 63 when I was 63 but I'm still waiting to shoot 64!” laughed the three time Senior Tour winner.
“It was better than I had expected though. When I got through the front nine on four under I just thought I’d give myself some birdie opportunities. I hit the rough at 18 for the bogey but all in all, it was a great round of golf.
“This is my last full year on tour so it would be nice to win here. It’s a good golf course, the greens are good and I'm reading them well so if I keep hitting greens I feel like I have a chance this week.”
He joined two-time European Tour winner Russell at the summit after the Englishman ripped up the back nine with five birdies in his final six holes to finish with a 65.
The 57 year old’s good round comes in the wake of tied 31st finish at the Cannes Mougins Masters last week, but it was the Pro-Am tournament after the main event in France that gave him the momentum going into this week.
“I was playing reasonably well in the last couple of tournaments and had 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 at the Pro-Am Sso I figured I would do the same this time and try not worry about where all the trouble was!”
Doug Johnson, meanwhile, was two shots further back on five under and he is hoping to provide a swansong worthy of a great career as he targets a place in the season-ending MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius, after announcing that he will retire at the end of the 2011 season.
The Belas Clube de Campo Senior Open de Portugal is only Johnson’s eighth Senior Tour appearance this year but he is now determined to finish well in Portugal to help earn himself a flight to Mauritius in December.
It would be a fitting end to a long career and he took one small step towards that goal at Belas Clube de Campo, just outside Lisbon, with a superb round of 67.
“It’s always important to play well but knowing that this is one of my last tournaments, it was even more important to me for play well,” said the American, who made a fairytale return to professional golf and the Senior Tour in the 2009 season ten months after a horrific near-fatal accident in which he suffered severe burns .
He was joined in second place by English-born Austrian Gordon Manson, who has been on good form of late but suffered some disappointment at the Casa Serena Open in the Czech Republic two weeks ago, receiving a two shot penalty after a stunning opening round to leave him on 66 rather than 64.
He started with a bogey at Belas Clube de Campo but birdies at the third, sixth, 15th and 18th were complemented by an eagle at the tenth to earn him a five under par round of 67.
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