Spaniard Antonio Hortal shot a course record-equalling 63 on Saturday to claim a narrow lead at the weather-affected Challenge de Catalunya, which will be completed on Sunday after being reduced to 54 holes.
With day two all-but wiped out by strong winds at Lumine Golf & Beach Club, in Tarragona, it was 24 year old Hortal who capitalised when the second round finally continued on Saturday morning, matching the 63 shot in round one by Dane Joakim Mikkelsen to reach 11 under par – one clear of his nearest challenger, American Connor Arendell, with 18 holes to come.
Hortal, searching for a maiden Challenge Tour title after struggling somewhat in his first two seasons on Tour, fired six birdies and one eagle in a blistering second round, the latter coming thanks to a 33 foot left-to-righter at the long second hole in northern Spain.
He said: “I was on my tenth hole when they called the suspension yesterday. So I started the round today and it all went perfect! I have played well in all areas.
“Last year I had a bad time on Tour. I was new and my thoughts were always very negative. Working with Alejandro Ramos has completely changed my mind. He says that my game is at the top and I have to believe it, and believe in me.
“Things are going great. I'm still working with Pepin Rivero and we have Alejandro in the team who is caddying for me just this week. He's been a great help, he plans my training and is helping me not to have negative thoughts on the course and in life.
“If I hit a bad shot, I now don’t worry about it and take the positive side of it. Everybody is hitting bad shots but for me it wasn't the case today, I hit everything perfectly!"
Qualifying School graduate Arendell, looking to become the fourth American to win on the Challenge Tour in the last two seasons after compatriots Brooks Koepka, Brinson Paolini and Peter Uihlein, mixed six birdies with two bogeys for a hard-fought 67.
He said: “This course suits me well so I will just have to hang there with the wind. Everything feels great but this week putting is being really good, I am giving myself lots of opportunities for birdie.
“Peter and Brooks are friends of mine, we are the same age and played together at college so we know each other really well and of course what they are doing here is a good reference to follow.
“I am used to playing with the wind, I come from Florida where we are used to play with wind, is a bit cooler here but it will be no big deal for me for tomorrow".
Ireland’s Niall Kearney, meanwhile, shot a superb 66 to move 43 places up the leaderboard into a share of third place – three shots off Hortal’s lead – alongside a trio of Frenchman in Cyril Bouniol, Adrien Saddier and Jerome Lando Casanova.
With more gusty conditions forecast for Sunday, the event has will be limited to 54 holes for the second time in three years.