Ian Woosnam wore the steely look of a gladiator as he conquered the Roman Road course with a best-of-the week 66 to march purposefully into contention for his first title on Welsh soil for 32 years, and a transatlantic double in the space of a month.
The former Masters Champion is seeking to build on his first Senior victory in the United States three weeks ago by capturing the SSE Enterprise Wales Senior Open at The Celtic Manor Resort, the famous venue which he used to represent as touring professional and which is supporting this tournament along with the Welsh Government.
Woosnam goes into the final day level with England’s Paul Wesselingh on 136, four under par, after the 2013 Senior Tour Order of Merit winner delivered an impressive riposte to the Welshman’s 66 with a three under par 67, tarnished slightly by a bogey at the last.
Wesselingh, as Woosnam pointed out, will be a doughty opponent in the final group, but acknowledged that victory tomorrow would banish the blues caused by several close calls on both The European Tour and the Senior Tour since his 1983 victory in his homeland at St Pierre in Chepstow.
“I am very happy to be in touch going into the last day. I’ve struggled a bit with the driver but scored quite well, which helps a lot,” he said. “It was pretty steady stuff, five birdies and a three putt at the sixth. The course is playing pretty well and hopefully I can throw in a low round again tomorrow.”
The 57 year old Welshman is banking on his stamina holding out after a run of 10 events in 12 weeks and he added: “Paul is a very good putter and a strong competitor. I played with him in the third round of the Senior PGA in America so I know he can work his way round a golf course.”
Fifteen years ago, Woosnam was also in the final group of the Wales Open but was edged out by Dane Steen Tinning and lost out to Phil Golding in the 2013 edition of the Wales Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl. “I’ve been playing here for a long time and I know I’m in a good position to finally go one better," he said. "There are always bigger cheers for the home players so I hope that everybody comes out and supports us.”
Wesselingh, who has won six times on the Senior Tour, reinstated an old putter this week but didn’t even require it at the par four eighth when he holed out with an eight iron from 158 yards. That eagle was sandwiched between birdies at the seventh and ninth and laid the foundation for his outstanding 67.
“The putter has had an 18 month holiday, but it’s given me a great feel on the greens, especially with my lag putting,” said the Derby golfer. “I enjoyed a bit of luck with back to back twos and only needing to use the putter once, but it kick started my day. Now I am going to enjoy playing with Woosie. He’s a legend. I can still remember sitting in front of my TV watching him hole that putt to win the Masters.
“I just love watching him play golf and he’s fun to be on the course with. I know the crowds will be pulling for him, but I will be doing my best to take the title from him. Don’t forget there are a few others not far off the pace who could shoot something in the mid sixties, so it’s not just a shoot out between Woosie and me.”
The Senior Tour will send the field out on two tees in the final round as a contingency against the possibility of adverse weather, so Woosnam and Wesselingh will be joined in the last group by Australian Peter Fowler, who watched Wesselingh’s 67 for 139.
On the same mark is joint first round leader Miguel Angel Martin, who shot a two over par 72 while the other 18-hole leader, Denis O’Sullivan of Ireland carded a 73 for level par 140.
Spare a thought for Argentina’s Cesar Monasterio, who leapt to the top of the leaderboard when his seven iron from 144 yards at the seventh found the bottom of the cup for a welcome ace. However, Monasterio proceeded to fire his next shot out of bounds from the eighth tee and the resulting quadruple bogey eight undid all the great work of the previous hole. Such is golf.
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