Gary Wolstenholme has won the battle after a two under par second round of 69 maintained his lead at the Benahavis Senior Masters in Spain, but he is yet to win the “War of the Roses” as five of his English compatriots sit waiting to pounce at La Quinta Golf and Country Club in Benahavis, Spain.
Wolstenholme consolidated his first round overnight lead after he followed up a steady level par front nine with birdies at the 14th, 15th and 17th to set the pace at eight under for the tournament and enter the final day with high hopes of a first win of the 2011 season.
“It was more of a war of attrition today,” said the 51 year old. “It was a tougher day, the wind was making the course play more difficult, I didn’t putt quite as well and didn’t have as many holeable putts, but I just didn’t want to make any silly mistakes.
“I just hung in there, which is what I wanted to do. It’s difficult when you’re in front, you’re aware of what’s going on around you but you have to concentrate on your own game.
“It’s a really good test of golf here though, you have to think your way around and be a little bit lucky too.”
He won’t sleep too easy tonight though, as a plethora of England’s top senior players lie ominously in waiting ahead of the final day in the south of Spain, with five St George’s Crosses directly behind him on the leaderboard.
The 2009 Benahavis Senior Masters champion and the man with a record 24 European Senior Tour wins, Carl Mason, sits just a shot back in second place, while 18-time European Tour winner and Ryder Cup veteran Mark James is a shot further back alongside two-time European Tour winner Andrew Sherborne in tied third place.
“There’s always quality up there at the top,” continued the six time Walker Cup player, “I just have to play my own game and if it’s good enough, it’s good enough.
“I just want to keep playing well and stay ahead of Mark Mouland in the Race for the Rookie of the Year but it would be nice to win here.”
Mason, meanwhile, was a picture of serenity after his bogey-free six under par round of 65 left him in a good position to battle for a second win this year and he earmarked his birdie at the 496 yard par five as the moment when he felt things were beginning to turn his way.
“I played very nice, there were no bogeys so it was fairly stress-free,” said the 58 year old. “At the front of the ninth hole I played a poor chip and it came up short and ran back downhill so I ended up 30 foot away but then held the putt.
“Certain things like that just go for you, whereas yesterday I was by the ninth green in three and made seven, but that’s just this crazy game of golf.
“I've played good enough to be around and about the leaderboard recently but not good enough to be there at the end and it makes all the difference when you roll a few in so I've given myself a chance and that’s always a good thing.”
Former Ryder Cup Captain James carded a second successive three under par round of 68 and, while he felt the second day was more of a struggle, he was still happy to be in contention after a season in which he has battled with his putting stroke.
“I didn’t putt too badly but I didn’t feel in control either so I was pleased to get around in three under,” said James.
“My stroke was better on the first day, I was lucky today that I had a chip-in on the fourth for a birdie. I seem to be scoring better this week than I have for a while so it’s been a little easier.”
Sherbourne followed on from the good form that earned him the best finish of his rookie year, tied sixth, at the Belas Clube de Campo Senior Open de Portugal two weeks ago, as he shot seven birdies, including two in a row on the 17th and 18th to sign for a six under par 65.
“I guess it’s nice to remember how to shoot a low score and I was really pleased with Portugal and I’m really pleased with how it’s going here,” said the Bristol man, whose two wins on The European Tour came in Spain, the first at the 1991 Madrid Open and the second at the Open de España a year later.
Peter Mitchell was another Englishman in the mix after a fantastic front nine, which included an eagle at the par four seventh, as he finished with a four under par 67 to share fifth place with Bob Cameron and Costantino Rocca, who both signed for three under par rounds of 68.
Barry Lane finished the day in eighth place after a 69 meant his attempts to close the gap on Senior Tour Order of Merit leader Peter Fowler, who was tied 20th having also had a 69, remained on course.