TWO slack holes back-to-back dashed Colin Montgomerie’s hopes of setting the pace in the first round of the MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius.
Making his debut in the European Senior Tour’s finale, the 50-year-old was sitting at the top of the leaderboard after covering the opening 12 holes at Constance Belle Mare Plage in five-under-par.
But he followed a bogey on the 13th with a double-bogey on the next before missing good birdie chances at the final two holes to open with a two-under-par 70.
It left the Scot in a six-way share of seventh place, alongside defending champion David Frost of South Africa, as Spaniard Miguel Angel Martin led the way on 66.
Paul Wesselingh, leading the Order of Merit race, birdied the final two holes for a round of 67 to join Roger Chapman, the man he is hoping to succeed as the Senior Tour’s No 1, on five-under, one behind pacesetter Martin.
With Denmark’s Steen Tinning, who needs to win the season-ending event and hope that Wesselingh is outside the top seven, finishing a further four shots back following a round of 71, Wesselingh has a clear advantage in the battle for the John Jacobs Trophy.
“It was nice to play with Steen as it was the first time we played together this year,” said Wesselingh. “He got a bit of a lead early on and then we drew level and Steen had a bit of bad luck on the 14th there when he made a double bogey, and that meant I got a bit ahead. I had a nice round, though, and I’m very happy.”
Wesselingh will be hoping to emulate Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who sealed the top spot on the European Tour by winning the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, but he has Martin in his way after the Spaniard produced a fine putting display over the Legend Course.
Martin birdied three of the opening four holes and picked up further shots on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 18th holes, with his only bogey of the day coming on the 16th hole.
After four top five finishes so far in 2013, Martin will be hoping to finally land his maiden Senior Tour title, but headed straight to the range after his round to work on improving his iron play.
“From the tee I hit it pretty well, mostly finding the fairway, but my irons were no good today,” said Martin. “I struggled with them, but thankfully my putter was very good. I missed at least three or four shots with my irons today, which is not usual for me. Except for the irons, I’m playing very well.
“I’ve been on the leaderboard quite a bit this year, but every time someone comes from behind and takes the money. You never know, this could be my week. This is the last chance this year, so I’m trying my hardest.
“I’m lying fifth on the Order of Merit, behind four very good players, so it has been a good year and all I’m missing is that win.”
Ross Drummond is just outside the top ten after a 71, but Andrew Oldcorn, despite being two-under after four, had to settle for a 73, the same as Gordon Brand Jnr.Sam Torrance and Bill Longmuir both opened with 75s.