Playing on the course where compatriot Ian Baker-Finch triumphed so memorably in 1991, as Mike Harwood finished second, Australia’s Peter Fowler shot a two under par 68 on Friday to get within two of the lead at The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex.
Fowler started superbly in his second round, hitting eight greens in a bogey-free front nine 31 at Royal Birkdale, which hosted The 120th Open Championship.
Regulation birdies at the second and ninth holes were outdone by a birdie from the bunker at the eighth, while the 54 year old Sydney native mixed two bogeys with a further gain at the 16th before holing a solid ten-footer to save par at the last.
“You're going to have to get up and down and hole some good putts for pars on a few holes around this golf course, and we prepared for that, and it was a nice way to finish,” reflected Fowler, who has finished tied sixth and tied seventh in his last two appearances at The Senior Open.
On playing in hospitable sunshine on the north west coast of England, Fowler added: “You can control the ball better. When it's blowing hard, when you get some rain, it's harder to do that. So you've got to make the most of good weather conditions.
“I played here in (The Open in) 2008 and it was just diabolical in the wind and the rain, at 6.30 in the morning so we know we have to make the most of this.”
Fowler is firm friends with fellow countryman Harwood, and the two regularly travel and stay together when playing on the European Senior Tour.
“It's a shame Mike couldn't be here this week,” he continued. “He's having elbow surgery, so he's out for a few months.
“He’s a great friend of mine and I know he would love to be here playing Birkdale because this was always a special place for him.”
Barry Lane, who narrowly missed out on the John Jacobs Trophy to Fowler in 2011, has been the leading European in the last two Senior Open Championships and is well placed for another assault on the lead over the weekend after a two under par 68 left him just five shots off the lead with 36 holes to play.
“It's an absolute pleasure to wake up in the morning and know that you're going to play here,” said the Englishman. “I think the weather may be a bit different at the weekend which would be a shame, but either way it will still be such a good test.
“I finished fifth and third the last two years s you never know. You've just got to play well and do the best you can, and if somebody plays better, then they play better. I just want to play well and if I play well, I've got a good chance.”
Sandy Lyle, meanwhile, buoyed by his four rounds in The Open Championship at Muirfield last week, found two birdies in the last four holes to sign for a two under par 68 and a share of seventh place – three behind leaders Langer and Wiebe.
“I'm always kind of dubious what can happen on this golf course and in links in general,” said Lyle, the 1985 Open Champion. “You just never know whether something will happen like a plugged ball in the bunker face or whatever.
“But I was very pleased with the way the golf went. The things I've been working on are just sort of starting to come through and having a bit more confidence week by week.”