Mike Cunning stormed to the top of the leaderboard in the second round of the Belas Clube de Campo Senior Open de Portugal with seven birdies on the way to a six under par round of 66.
The American began the day four shots off the lead set by Jerry Bruner and David J Russell but his superb round, which included five birdies in the back nine, has given him a perfect chance to avoid relinquishing his record of winning in each European Senior Tour season he has played.
Cunning’s Senior Tour career got off to a dream start when he won on his debut at the 2009 season-opening Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by Stableford Forum before claiming his second win at the season-ending OKI Castellón Senior Tour Championship in Spain in 2010.
The 53 year old hasn’t quite hit those heights yet this year but he’s feeling confident after his putting game finally clicked this week.
“I talked to my caddy before the week started and I was getting too tense so I was trying to keep my putter loose instead of forcing it,” said Cunning, whose best finish this season was tied 18th in his first event at the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open.
“I've been hitting the ball good but just not scoring but all of a sudden I’m making some putts and it’s a lot more fun today.
“Things just started to click for me in the first round, I had been having some putter issues but in the practice round this week everything started to feel a lot better. I tend to go fire an ice with my game a little bit but today was really good.”
When asked if he was now determined to maintain his record of a win every season on the Senior Tour, he replied; “I don’t want to think about too much, although it seems to come to that at the end of the year but I like the way I’m playing at the moment so I’m quite confident.”
Bruner, meanwhile, was a shot further back in second place after he consolidated his opening round of 65 with a steady one under par round of 71, which included birdies on the third, 10th and sixth holes, while one of his bogeys came on the same par four fourth hole which he eagled on the opening day.
Having recently announced his imminent retirement from golf, the 64 year old admitted that one last hurrah is playing on his mind as he enters the final day in Portugal right in with a shout of a fourth Senior Tour victory.
“I'm striking the ball well and now it’s just about calming myself down in the final round and getting into a good groove but it’s nice to go in to a final day in contention again,” he said, before concluding; “I’m still thinking about that final win to say goodbye to the Senior Tour.”
England’s Andrew Sherborne was one of the five players tied for third place and three shots behind Cunning on six under as he raced into contention mid-way through the second day after a glorious start.
He carded three birdies in the opening three holes, helping him to a superb eight under par round of 64 to join Gordon Brand Jnr, Doug Johnson, Gordon Manson and Noel Ratcliffe in third.
The two time European Tour winner is in his rookie year on the European Senior Tour and is still chasing his first win, having claimed his only top ten finish at the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open.
Brand Jnr’s hunt for an elusive first title of the 2011 European Senior Tour season continued as he was also just three shots back following a four under par round of 68, which included birdies at the first, ninth, 10th and 12th holes.
Ian Woosnam was a shot further back and tied for eighth spot after a three under par round of 69 left him five under for the tournament but he will be disappointed not to have finished one shot better after his approach shot at the par four first hole came within inches of dropping in the cup for what would have been spectacular eagle.
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