Like many of his contemporaries on the European Senior Tour, Andrew Oldcorn's first event on the over-50s circuit this season will be a major championship. It is a bit like being sent to the raging front after a few shots with a spud gun. Thank goodness, then, for the Tartan Tour.
The 54-hole P&H Championship at Dundonald Links this week has provided the 54-year-old with a timely opportunity to get the various cogs, pulleys and pistons clanking into life again after a prolonged and enforced hibernation caused by the European Senior circuit's ever-decreasing schedule.
Oldcorn continued to shake off the rustiness on a delightful Ayrshire day with a three-under 69 for a four-under 140, which left the former PGA champion just two shots behind the pace-setting trio of Robert Arnott, Graham Fox and Louis Gaughan heading into the closing day.
"The European Senior Tour is decimated," said Oldcorn as he attempts to get his game into shape for next month's US Senior PGA Championship in Michigan, an event in which he shared eighth on his debut four years ago. "We've not played an event for six months and we're expected to go into a major and compete against guys who are playing week in, week out on the Champions Tour in the US.
"You need to be playing, it's as simple as that. We can't be expected to contend and do ourselves any credit in majors if we have nothing to play in. When I started on the Senior Tour, I could have played 21 events in a season. Now, if you take out the majors, there are only nine regular events. I'm very lucky I've got the Tartan Tour to fall back on."
Oldcorn, who will continue to limber up for wider crusades in next week's Scottish PGA Championship, could have been in an even better position had his first round 71 on Monday not ended with a painful, triple-bogey 8 on the 18th. "That was a real kick in the nuts," he winced in reflection.
Arnott, the sprightly 50-year-old from Bishopbriggs who earned a conditional card for the European Senior Tour this season, reeled off three birdies in four holes from the 12th for a second successive 69 and a six-under 138. "Old dog, nae tricks," chuckled Arnott, who has battered away on the Tartan Tour for 25 years.
From an auld dug to a bounding Fox. Well, he was until the last two holes. Fox, the former Scottish PGA champion, had been five-under for his round and on course to open up a decent lead until he stumbled over the finishing line. The 36-year-old had to come out sideways from the fairway bunker on the 17th and leaked a shot before pulling his approach to the last and never seeing his ball again. That led to a double-bogey in a 70 for his six-under tally. "It was all going swimmingly until those last two holes," lamented Fox, who had picked up five strokes in 10 holes from the seventh.
Gaughan, a 20-year-old assistant at Bathgate, topped the East of Scotland Winter Alliance's order of merit this year and has carried that decent form into the spring on the Tartan Tour with a pair of 69s here. "If I keep putting well, I'll have a chance," said Gaughan, as he prepared to go toe-to-toe with some vastly experienced old hands.
Alistair Brown's eventful 69, which featured five birdies and a double-bogey, left him on the 139 mark while Greig Hutcheon, last year's Tartan Tour No 1, lurks four shots off the lead on a 142.