Browne still on course in Ohio

American Olin Browne stretched his lead to two shots at the U.S. Senior Open in Saturday’s third round.

American Olin Browne stretched his lead to two shots at the U.S. Senior Open in Saturday’s third round.

Browne leads fellow American Mark O’Meara, who won the Masters and British Open in 1998, by two shots in what looks to be a two-horse race for the Senior major title.

The two were paired together in Saturday’s third round at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, as they duked it our for the lead on a hot and sweltering day.

Browne, still seeking his first win on the Senior Tour in three years, set the tournament record for the lowest score through 54 holes, adding a third-round 65 to his record-equaling 64 and 69 in the opening two rounds to lie on 15-under 198.

Browne has led for all three rounds of the tournament so far, and if he wins on Sunday he’ll join Simon Hobday as the only two wire-to-wire winners in the event’s history.

O’Meara, who shot a 66 on the day, managed to pull even with Browne at the ninth hole, but fell back as Browne made five birdies on the difficult back nine.

A full six shots behind the leader, and four behind O’Meara, are Jeff Sluman (65), Peter Senior (68), Joey Sindelar (69) and Mark Calcavecchia (69), while Hale Irwin (66), Jeff Roth (68) and Michael Allen (71) were two shots further back on seven under.

Starting the day one shot clear of O’Meara, Browne birdied the fourth hole only to see his opponent follow suit. O’Meara then caught up on holes eight and nine thanks to successive birdies as they headed to the back nine.

Browne started strongest, and would continue just as strongly, as he left himself 18 inches for birdie on the 10th after a pinpoint wedge shot. Two more birdies followed in the next three holes as he built up a three-stroke cushion.

O’Meara hit back again towards the end of his round, rolling in birdie putts on 17 and 18, but each time he lay down the gauntlet, Browne, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, responded with a birdie of his own.

Conditions at Inverness once again proved conducive to low scoring, despite the sweltering heat. Almost four inches of rain fell in the last week, and a thunderstorm on Friday morning saw the players leave the course, causing 21 of them to return on Saturday morning to complete their second rounds.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer shot a 68 on Saturday and is tied for 10th place a full nine shots off the lead, alongside Hal Sutton (66), Nick Price (68), Jay Haas (68), Steve Jones (69) and Corey Pavin (70).