Jason Norris and Andre Stolz laid waste to much of the New South Wales Senior Open field today with a pair of 65s.
But in an equally ominous warning for those remaining in contention, those scores could so easily have been even lower.
Norris (-10) and Stolz (-8) will be joined by John Wade (-7) in the final group of the 54-hole tournament tomorrow, both now seemingly having cracked the Thurgoona Country Club code and ready to blank the star-studded chasing pack.
Queensland-based South Australian Norris, only a recent graduate to the Legends Tour having turned 50 in September, showed why he still considers himself capable of winning on the younger “regular” circuit with a blistering back nine that came with precious little warning.
“I started pretty good, birdied the first and then had a run where I could have made quite a few more over the next five holes and didn’t, then I missed a real short one (for birdie) on the seventh, lost it for a few minutes, hit a few poor shots and three-putted the eighth from nowhere,” said Norris, who minutes later birdied five holes on the trot from the 10th another on the 17th and missed a short putt on 18 that would have sealed a closing 29.
“It just clicked. I hit a couple of good shots up 10, made a nice birdie there, then a good one on the par-3 12th and I was suddenly right into it.
“I missed a couple of short ones as well, so I suppose it could have been anything.”
Stolz, similarly, said he’d found himself with approach distances that left him “between clubs”, so he couldn’t exact full toll on the way he felt after giving himself an upper cut following a sluggish opening 71.
“Yesterday I was a bit scrappy in the colder weather. I was hitting the fairways, but it was a bit untidy and skanky if I’m fair dinkum,” the Queensland-based New South Welshman said said.
“So I got home last night, had a look at the scores and thought, `Geez, the boys have actually carved it up … I’d better get my arse into gear’.
“So yesterday I thought the course was playing really difficult and then today I just striped it all day. I was thinking it was playing pretty easy.
“I actually should have gone a bit lower because I missed a couple of chances coming home and knocked it on the back of the (par-5) seventh in two and only made par.
“But it’s out there for me, I know it now.”
Wade was joined late at seven under by his fellow first-round leader Euan Walters, who birdied the last for his own 71.
Walters will share the second-last group tomorrow with Richard Green (71) and Steve Conran (70) who both finished at six under and still have glory in sight.
“I’m hitting the ball very straight and … because the fairways are so nice after the preferred lies we’re playing, the greens are big and soft so you hit a lot of greens and you get a lot of chances,” Conran mused.
“So you never know. I haven’t been playing well in recent times, so it’s just good to be in this position and I’ll just take anything that comes my way tomorrow.”
Green gave himself myriad birdie chances, but many of them were from above the cup on the deceptively fast greens.
“Today just wasn’t a putting day for me which is strange because I’ve been putting so well lately,” Green said.
“Then you start second guessing yourself a little and you’re on the wrong foot. Nothing horrendous at all, but I found myself a bit above the pins today and it’s much harder from there around here.
“I’d have liked to be at seven or eight (under) and just need a nice round of golf tomorrow, but now it’s a bit tougher. If I putt well, though, you never know.”
Terry Price, Peter Jones and Scott Laycock are knotted at five under to figure in the third last group, with Peter O’Malley (69) the best of the remaining contenders at three under.
The cut fell at four over par and 54 players will contend tomorrow’s final round from 8.20am, with the final group off at 10am.