Philip Walton bounced back from his Scottish Seniors Open disappointment with a three under 69 that leaves him just two shots off the pace in the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters at Woburn Golf Club.
The Dubliner, who was in contention with nine holes to go in St Andrews only to slip to 19th, is tied for fourth with Englishmen Mark James and Andrew Sherborne on the Duke’s Course.
Argentina’s Luis Carbonetti shot a five under 67 to lead by one from European Senior Tour rookie Colin Montgomerie whose bogey at the last for a 68 denied him a shre of the lead.
Defending champion Des Smyth, bidding for a third Seniors Tour win at Woburn in four years, was three over with five to play but rallied to shoot a one over 73 while Denis O’Sullivan struggled to a 77.
With the Duke’s Course bathed in glorious sunshine, around 7,000 fans flocked to the venue which is this week hosting the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters for a 13th successive edition.
And Montgomerie, billed as the star attraction in just his third Senior Tour appearance, did not disappoint, firing four birdies in his first six holes to reach the turn in 33.
Driving superbly all day on the often narrow, tree-lined layout, a fifth gain of the day followed at the tenth to send Montgomerie top alongside morning starter Carbonetti, but seven straight pars preceded an unlucky conclusion as he bogeyed the last after missing his first fairway of the day at the 356-yard 18th hole.
“It could have been a lot better obviously,” said a philosophical Montgomerie. “I was five under after ten and didn’t make another birdie with two reachable par fives to come and it was the relatively easy 18th that I messed up.
“But it’s safe. You don’t win here in the first round, just get into a good position to move forward and that’s what I’ve done so all-in-all I’m quite satisfied.”
Montgomerie has had some excellent performances on the Duke’s Course over the years, having finished in the top ten on four occasions at Woburn in the British Masters between 1994 and 2000 and he said his straight-hitting had paid off once again.
“I think it is a golf course that suits my eye,” he continued. “I hit most fairways and if you do that then you usually score well around here.
“The conditioning of the course is superb, I’ve played here a dozen times or more and this is the best I’ve ever seen it.”
Carbonetti, who nine years ago completed a two-shot triumph at Woburn in this tournament, played in the opening grouping of the day and negated the chilly early conditions with some accurate striking of his own to sign for a five under par 67.
The 60 year old missed only one fairway all day – at the 16th where he made his one and only bogey – while all his five birdies, including an excellent effort at the last, came from within ten feet.
He said: “I was straight down the middle all day long, it’s one of the best rounds I’ve ever had at Woburn.
“Nine years ago was by far the best tournament of my life and hopefully after that start I can hope to try to repeat that.”
Two-time Senior Masters winner Carl Mason is three off the lead following the opening exchanges after a two under par 70.
Scores after round 1:
67 L Carbonetti (Arg) ,
68 S Van Vuuren (RSA), C Montgomerie (Sco) ,
69 M James (Eng), P Walton (Irl), A Sherborne (Eng) ,
70 J Spence (Eng), R Drummond (Sco), R Gibson (Can), J Quiros (Esp), C Mason (Eng) ,
71 A Oldcorn (Sco), T Thelen (USA), J Bruner (USA), P Golding (Eng), J Rivero (Esp), C Williams (RSA), G Ryall (Eng), M Martin (Esp), G Norquist (USA) ,
72 P Linhart (Esp), M Farry (Fra), I Woosnam (Wal), S Brown (Eng), T Johnstone (Zim), M Cunning (USA) ,
73 P Jonas (Can), M Harwood (Aus), S Cipa (Eng), S Torrance (Sco), D Smyth (Irl), B Cameron (Eng), S Tinning (Den), A Franco (Par), S McAllister (Sco) ,
74 P Wesselingh (Eng), G Wolstenholme (Eng), G Ralph (Eng), M Kuramoto (Jpn), R Thompson (USA), G Manson (Aut), P Fowler (Aus), G Brand Jnr (Sco) ,
75 H Buhrmann (RSA), T Elliott (Aus), S Luna (Esp), J Harrison (Eng), K Spurgeon (Eng), P Mitchell (Eng), S Bennett (Eng), P Curry (Eng) ,
76 G Banister (Aus), P Barber (Eng), N Job (Eng), W Grant (Eng), C Rocca (Ita) ,
77 T Price (Aus), A Murray (Eng), M Piñero (Esp), D Hospital (Esp), J Laforce (Can), D O’Sullivan (Irl) ,
78 A Garrido (Esp), B Stevens (Eng), P Eales (Eng), D Durnian (Eng) ,
79 J Carriles (Esp), J Gould (Eng) ,
81 M McLean (Eng) ,
82 D James (Sco) ,
85 V Garcia (Esp) ,
** P Way (Eng) ,