The ultra-talented trio of Barry Lane, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam ended the first day of the Berenberg Masters in hot pursuit of the surprise leader Greg Turner.
After enjoying great success on The European Tour, winning four times, Turner opted to hang up his clubs a decade ago in order to concentrate full-time on his golf course design company in his native New Zealand; but was persuaded by his good friend and fellow Senior Tour Member Peter Fowler to return to competitive action this year.
The decision certainly looks a shrewd one, as the 50 year old posted a flawless seven under par round on the opening day of the €400,000 event.
That left Turner two strokes clear of Woosnam, Lane and his playing partner Langer, whose round of 67 went some way towards erasing the painful memories of his late collapse at last week’s Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex.
Turner finished in a tie for 20th place last week, and his performance at Royal Birkdale – coupled with an encouraging display in the US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid at the start of the campaign – gave him the belief that he could compete with the likes of former Ryder Cup-winning Captains Langer and Woosnam.
And so it proved, as he raced to the turn in just 31 strokes before adding two further gains after the turn to sit proudly on top of the leaderboard at a sun-kissed Golf- und Land-Club Köln, on the outskirts of Cologne, Germany.
Turner, whose brother Glenn is a former New Zealand cricket captain, said: “I played really, really well today. I holed one long putt for birdie on the fifth, but after that my next longest putt was only from about eight feet. If you drive the ball well round here then you’re going to give yourself a few chances because the greens are quite soft, and I drove the ball very well today.
“I played very nicely at Birkdale last week so that gave me a bit of confidence and momentum to bring here, but I wouldn’t say I expected to shoot seven under on the first day – especially after taking such a long break from the game. I officially retired from competitive golf nine years ago, but I guess it’s just been a sabbatical!
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well I’ve struck the ball since deciding to come back, and hopefully that feeling can continue. I’m still not sure what I’ll do for the rest of the year, because it’s a busy time with my golf course design business, so that still has to be my priority. But if I do well here this week and feel like I can compete with these guys, I might have a decision to make. But it’s a nice headache to have.”
Home hero Langer delighted the 3,200 spectators who flocked through the gates with another consummate performance of precision golf.
A three-putt bogey on the par three 15th hole was the only blemish in an otherwise flawless display which ended on a high note, with a sixth birdie of the day birdie at the last.
Langer, whose daughter Chrissy caddied for him, said: “It was a steady, solid day. I drove the ball very well, which you need to do on this course, because it’s very tight from the tee. It’s a fantastic course and I always love playing here, especially in front of big crowds.
“It’s good to have a tournament this week in some ways, because I can put last week to one side and move on. You’re going to lose many more tournaments than you win, so it didn’t take me too long to get over it and put it into perspective. In order to win tournaments you can’t be afraid of losing them so hopefully I can give myself another chance of winning on Sunday, and finish it off this time.”
Playing partner Lane also birdied the last hole to sign for a bogey-free round of 67 which understandably pleased the affable Englishman.
He said: “It’s always a pleasure to play with Bernhard, I’ve been paired with him for the last couple of years in this tournament and I really enjoyed it again out there today. I only missed one green and managed to get up and down, so wasn’t really in too much trouble the whole way round. It’s a great start, and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Japan’s Massy Kuramoto and Dane Steen Tinning are currently in a share of fifth place on four under par after both men signed for rounds of 68.