A brilliant second round effort of six under par 66 saw Mark James take the lead at the halfway stage of ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship.
The former Ryder Cup Captain leads last year’s Senior Tour Rookie of the Year, Steen Tinning, by a single stroke after Tinning’s second day 68 saw him close the gap at the top of the leaderboard to one stroke with 36 holes to play at the Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa.
James started his second round on the tenth and after three birdies and a single bogey in his opening 13 holes was in a tie for the lead. He then burst into life to deliver four birdies in a row between the fifth and eighth holes before dropping a shot on the par three ninth.
Despite ending the day with a bogey, James was delighted with his day’s work.
“I played really nicely today,” said the man affectionately known on tour as 'Jesse'. “I actually played pretty well yesterday too which is a little surprising as I haven’t played much golf recently but it is very welcome.
“We have been waiting for the season to really get going on the Senior Tour and it feels good to be back out there competing again. I have been skiing a lot over the winter and recently have been in the gym a bit and getting prepared for the summer so it is nice to make such a positive start.”
Tinning couldn’t agree more with the need for a positive start to the season. The Dane has been playing on mini tours in America and Europe in order to best prepare for the European Senior Tour season and even won a senior event in America last month.
He brought that form to England this week as he notched six birdies during his second round 69 to ensure he stayed very much in contention heading into the weekend.
“I played nicely again,” said Tinning, “and it just feels really good to be up there this early in the season.
“I have been working really hard on getting to this moment because I am the kind of golfer who needs to be playing a lot so I have played in Europe, America and home in Denmark since the start of the year to try and stay in shape and keep my game sharp so that I could make this kind of start to the year.”
Chris Williams moved into third place after a second round 68 helped the South African-based Englishman move to six under, while his countryman Paul Eales occupies fourth place on five under par heading into the weekend.
It was not such a great day for first round leader Des Smyth, who dropped back into the chasing pack after a four over par 76. Two triple bogey sevens (on the second and tenth holes) did the damage for Smyth, but he is not out of contention along with many of the Senior Tour’s biggest names such as Carl Mason (one under), Ronan Rafferty and Barry Lane (both two under).