DROOKIT by the finish, Sam Torrance jokingly cursed himself for making the signature hole on his course at Fairmont St Andrews such a demanding test but is still in with a chance of receiving an early 60th birthday present in the SSE Scottish Seniors Open.
On a miserable day on the Fife coast – tournament organisers made a shrewd move by opting for a two-tee start and getting all the players out on the course before 9am – Australian Peter Fowler moved into pole position with a splendid six-under-par 66. The day’s best effort by three shots, it moved the 54-year-old, whose sole European Tour triumph came in the BMW International Open in Germany 20 years ago, to five-under for the tournament, one ahead of Irish duo Philip Walton as well as Denis O’Sullivan, England’s Peter Mitchell and Spaniard Santiago Luna.
Torrance, bidding to repeat his 2006 win ahead of that 60th birthday next Saturday, is three off the pace going into today’s final round, having been breathing down Fowler’s neck after covering his opening 11 holes in two-under before letting shots slip at the 12th and 17th.
“Who designed that because it is fantastically difficult?” asked Torrance of the latter, which, at 440 yards and with an out of bounds wall running all the way up its right-hand side, is a beast at the best of times.
Unfortunately for Torrance, it was “pissing down and blowing a gale” when he arrived on the tee on this occasion, but the newly-appointed Great Britain & Ireland captain for the Seve Trophy later in the year was far from downbeat after signing for a 72.
“I hit it well again,” he reported of keeping alive his hopes of a first win since the Barbados Seniors Open in 2009. “I’m not far away and feel I’ve got at least one more win in me, hopefully. Am I as good now as I was at 50? No, but I could be if I hit as well as I did yesterday.”
While a 7.20am start allowed him to avoid the worst of the weather – St Andrews disappeared for a spell in the distance as the conditions closed in around lunchtime – Fowler’s effort was admirable nonetheless. “They moved a few tees up and I was driving it well, so I had a lot of short irons in,” said the leader, left.
Three birdies in a row from the 16th, where he rolled in a 40-footer, proved the telling thrust yesterday, with a troublesome knee likely to be as big a worry for Fowler in the final round as the players breathing down his neck.
“There’s some shrapnel in there,” he joked after revealing his left knee had undergone a second operation in as many years.
Walton, Europe’s Ryder Cup hero at Oak Hill in 1995, moved into contention with a 66, while Mitchell, the 2008 winner, is in with a chance of reclaiming the title after a second 70.