America’s Tim Thelen (pictured by Getty Images) defied a back problem to card an eight under par 64 and claim a three shot lead after the second round of the Senior Open de Portugal at Vidago Palace.
The former US PGA Club Professional champion almost pulled out after his back went into spasm on the second hole, but he went on to card nine birdies to reach 12 under par and go into the final with a comfortable cushion over Carl Mason, Des Smyth and Greg Turner.
Overnight leader Chris Williams slipped back to fifth place on eight under par after dropping three shots on the par four 16th on his way to carding a one over par 73, while Miguel Angel Martin posted a six under par 66 to join Simon P. Brown, Gary Rusnak, Jerry Smith and Steen Tinning two shot further back on six under par.
Thelen arrived in Portugal having finished inside the top three on his last two starts, but the in-form American came close to quitting after aggravating an existing back injury while playing out of a bunker on the par five second hole.
“I thought I was done on the second,” he admitted. “It went into spasm after the bunker shot and I seriously considered calling it a day. In the end I decided to see how bad it got and it turned out to be a good decision because I scored very well after that.
Thelen’s birdie barrage started on the fourth and he also gained shots on the sixth and the eighth before claiming four more birdies on the tenth 11th, 13th and 15th. He produced his shot of the day on the 16th where he hit a six iron to an inch before two-putting for another birdie on the 17th hole.
“It was a good day’s work but I’m exhausted now and very uncomfortable,” he said. “I need to see the physio and see if she can do anything to sort me out.”
Turner carded an excellent 67 to move up from ninth place into a share of second and give him a great chance to claim his first title on just his third start on the European Senior Tour.
The New Zealander began his round with birdies on the second, fourth and sixth. He dropped a shot when he failed to get up-and-down from just off the tenth green before carded four birdies and a bogey over his closing seven holes to join Smyth and Mason on nine under par 135.
“It was a strange sort of round,” he said. “I hit a couple of loose shots over the first couple of holes and never really felt comfortable after that. I have putted well over the last two days. I haven’t holes a lot of long ones but haven’t missed much from medium range and that’s what you have to do to make your score.
Smyth would have started the final round in second place on his own but for missing from a couple of feet for a par on his final hole of the day.
“It leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth,” he said after posting a four under par 68. “I played some terrific golf and holed a lot of good putts but that miss on the last is what I’m going to remember when I’m thinking about the round this evening. I mishit it and it dived straight left on me. It never had a chance.”
Mason added a 69 to his opening 66 and still has an excellent opportunity to add to his record haul of 25 European Senior Tour victories. He played the first 11 holes of his round in level par but then battled back with birdies on the 13th, 14th and 17th.
“It was tricky out there today,” he said. “The wind was stronger than yesterday and there are a lot of holes out there where you have to be very careful. I don’t think I played quite as well as yesterday but I’m still in contention and that’s all that matters at this stage in the tournament.”
One player who no longer has a chance to win this year’s Senior Open de Portugal is former Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam. He played 12 holes of his second round in one under par but then had to pull out one hole later suffering from a back problem.
Complete second round scores
132 T Thelen (USA) 68 64,
135 G Turner (Nzl) 68 67, C Mason (Eng) 66 69, D Smyth (Irl) 67 68,
136 C Williams (RSA) 63 73,
138 S Brown (Eng) 71 67, M Martin (Esp) 72 66, J Smith (USA) 69 69, S Tinning (Den) 67 71, G Rusnak (USA) 67 71,
139 G Ryall (Eng) 70 69, B Ruangkit (Tha) 67 72, J Rivero (Esp) 69 70, L Carbonetti (Arg) 71 68, C Monasterio (Arg) 68 71, A Oldcorn (Sco) 73 66,
140 J Bruner (USA) 70 70, R Gibson (Can) 73 67, G Manson (Aut) 73 67,
141 J Quiros (Esp) 68 73, B Longmuir (Sco) 71 70,
142 M Davis (Eng) 74 68, A Franco (Par) 71 71, S McAllister (Sco) 74 68, A Murray (Eng) 67 75, J Carriles (Esp) 71 71, G Brand (Eng) 70 72,
143 S Van Vuuren (RSA) 70 73, S Bennett (Eng) 71 72, P Wesselingh (Eng) 70 73, J Berendt (Arg) 70 73, D Russell (Eng) 69 74, P Eales (Eng) 70 73, G Wolstenholme (Eng) 66 77, P Golding (Eng) 68 75, A Sherborne (Eng) 73 70,
144 J Remesy (Fra) 71 73, R Thompson (USA) 72 72, G Emerson (Eng) 73 71, P Fowler (Aus) 70 74, J Gould (Eng) 71 73,
145 J Harrison (Eng) 72 73, S Luna (Esp) 71 74, P Walton (Irl) 73 72,
146 D Hospital (Esp) 73 73, G Joyner (Aus) 70 76, M Farry (Fra) 73 73, H Carbonetti (Arg) 71 75,
147 B Cameron (Eng) 72 75, J Sallat (Fra) 75 72, B Conser (USA) 77 70, M McLean (Eng) 69 78,
148 S Cipa (Eng) 72 76, W Grant (Eng) 74 74,
149 R Sabarros (Fra) 77 72, N Job (Eng) 76 73, D James (Sco) 75 74,
150 M Bianco (Ita) 75 75, M Harwood (Aus) 76 74, M Belsham (Eng) 76 74, T Lawrence (Eng) 75 75, M Cunning (USA) 71 79,
152 K Spurgeon (Eng) 76 76,
153 J Cañizares (Esp) 73 80,
154 J Laforce (Can) 76 78,
155 E Polland (Nir) 75 80,
156 V Garcia (Esp) 75 81,
157 P Jonas (Can) 82 75,
159 J Dias (Por) 82 77,
162 B Marchbank (Sco) 81 81,
167 A Garrido (Esp) 90 77,
** I Woosnam (Wal) 77 RT