Carl Mason carded a five-under-par 65 to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Senior British Open at Turnberry today. The 50-year-old Englishman had six birdies and just one bogey in his third round yesterday, but some of his thunder was stolen by Jack Nicklaus, who played 14 holes in five under par before dropping two shots down the stretch.
Mason will tee up today on 196, 14 under par, one shot ahead of D A Weibring, of the United States, and three clear of the American trio of Tom Kite, Bruce Summerhays and Tom Watson. Nicklaus, who was tied for ninth on 204 after completing a three-under-par 67, holds a two-shot lead over New Zealand's Bob Charles in the race to finish the leading competitor in the over-60 age bracket.
Mason went out with a one-shot lead and consolidated his position in windless, sunny conditions with birdies on the fifth, seventh, 10th and 11th holes. But he dropped his first shot in 43 holes when he drove into trouble on the 14th and had to take a penalty drop. That enabled Weibring and Kite to catch him, but Mason pulled ahead again with a birdie at the 18th, while Kite recorded an ugly double-bogey on the 17th.
"I have to admit I felt a bit flat during the first few holes, which I don't suppose was all that surprising considering I played the first two rounds with Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson," said Mason.
"But the early birdies settled me down and I was fine after that. I must admit that I'm thoroughly enjoying the week - it's been a great experience, and I would like to think I can keep things going. Tomorrow I'll be flying the flag for the European Seniors' Tour. It looks like it's going to me against all the Americans, which is going to be a lot of fun."
For the first 36 holes, Mason was cast as the supporting act to the two players who staged the so-called "duel in the sun" for the 1977 Open over the Ayrshire links. But he refused to stay out of the spotlight, and rounds of 67 and 64 eclipsed his more famous rivals.
Weibring, who opened with a 63 on Thursday, had five birdies in a bogey-free 65 yesterday, while Watson had just one blemish on his 66 when he bogeyed the 13th after pitching over the green.
Last year's winner, Noboru Sugai of Japan, carded a 72 for a three-round total of 212, two over par. Afterwards, he said: "This year my golf has not been good enough so I don't feel disappointed. I'm really happy the tournament is now classed as a major on the Champions Tour. The field is a lot stronger and now people recognise this as a big tournament. Many people have come here to see it."
Even though Mason leads, Watson remains the favourite to emulate his Open Championship victory of 26 years ago. His current form is outstanding: in recent weeks he has scored 65 at the US Open, 66 at the US Seniors Open, 64 at the Senior Players' Championship and 69 in The Open at Sandwich last Sunday.