DJ back in the groove but Smyth sets pace



A month after fearing he might not play golf again, DJ Russell sprang into action to surge into contention at the halfway stage of the ISPS HANDA PGA Seniors Championship at De Vere Mottram Hall.

The Archerfield Links based pro recently suffered a trapped nerve which saw him barely able to move out of his chair for a month but he showed few ill-effects as he fired a flawless six-under-par 67.

It left him in a share of second alongside Paul Wesselingh and Juan Manuel Carriles, just two strokes adrift of leader Des Smyth who is at 10 under for the £260,000 tournament having taken his birdie tally to 15 as he added a second round 69 to his opening 67.

But while Smyth has dropped seven shots, Russell has yet to blot his scorecard, conjuring up memories of his 1992 victory in the Lyon Open where he didn’t make a single bogey in 72 holes – something he would love to emulate this week.

“I’d like to have a repeat of that, and the rough was about as thick as here so maybe that’s a sign,” he said.

It won’t be easy though as he conceded: “There are lot of fiddly, tricky shots.

“There are less dangerous holes on the front nine rather than easier holes but there are a few holes on the back nine that get your attention, where you’ve got to get it in the right position, put it on the fairway and on the green in right place.”

Win or lose though, Russell will soak up the warm sunshine at the Cheshire resort which is a local favourite for nearby soccer stars such as Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero and Sir Alex Ferguson who is honorary captain of the golf club.

 “I’d spent four weeks just sat in a chair thinking I’d never play golf again, so this is an absolute pleasure,” he added.

“I was given the all clear to play so I went over to the Senior PGA in America because I had thought playing would damage the disk but everything’s OK in my spine, it was just one of those things.”

Smyth meanwhile admits he will need plenty more birdies if he is to win the prestigious PGA Seniors crown for the first time.

“It’s early season and I feel I’m really keen to play and that’s why the birdies are flowing but we’re not just tight enough yet as I’ve dropped a lot of silly shots that you wouldn’t normally drop,” he said.

“If the weather’s going to stay like this then there are going to be birdie opportunities so there’s no point in sitting and thinking you’re going to do well at ten under par, you’ve got to go searching out the birdies, it’s that simple, because the other guys are going to do it.”

Defending champion Wesselingh, playing alongside former World No.1 Ian Woosnam, matched his fast start of yesterday with another bolt from the blocks with four birdies in his first six holes.

“I’m slightly disappointed with today but if somebody said you were going to finish eight under after two rounds at the start of the week you’d have been taking it,” he said.

“But it was very tricky on that front nine, and as all three of us said walking down the ninth you couldn’t tell which way the wind was going and the course has dried up.”

An almost impossible lie cost Woosnam a bogey on his last hole but the Welsh ace still managed a 69 which leaves him five shots off the lead and despite some frustrations with his game believes he can still win.

“I’m working on my game, but I’ve been working on it for 40 years, and I just can’t match up my arms with my shoulder turn really and just on the back nine I tried to shorten the swing and it seemed to match a little bit better.

 “But I’m looking forward to playing tomorrow, I’m just frustrated as I’ve not really played very well and I’m five under par, and if I can get going maybe I can have a chance of winning.”

German-based PGA pro Simon Brown added a second successive two under 71 to sit at four under while Waltham Windmill's Steve Bennett is three under.

North east duo Graeme Bell (Eaglescliffe) and John Harrison (Matfen Hall) are two under but three bogeys in his last four holes left Harrison thinking what might have been.

“I finished in an ambulance, I went to five under with an eagle on 13 and then had a birdie chance at 14 to go six under, missed that and then I hit three bunkers on the trot and didn’t get up and down on either of them,”he said Harrison.

“But two unders not bad and we’ll get stuck in tomorrow.”

Bell added:  “I would say it was mission accomplished for me. There was a few nerves about making the cut but now I just want to enjoy it."

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