Andrew McArthur cruised to a second consecutive bogey-free round at the inaugural D+D Real Slovakia Challenge as a six under 66 earned the Scotsman a one-shot lead heading into the weekend at Penati Golf Resort.
The former Challenge Tour winner carded two eagles and two birdies at the Jack Nicklaus-designed ‘Legend course’ near the town of Senica and, crucially, did what the large majority could not by avoiding a single blemish on his card.
That commanding display moved McArthur to 13 under for the tournament, a shot clear of Dane Mark F Haastrup, who fired a scorching seven under par second round of 65 despite a double-bogey at the eighth hole, his 17th.
The leader was delighted with his performance in the opening two days of the first major men’s professional tournament to be held in Slovakia, and was glad to have been on the right end of the draw, avoiding some stronger winds which whipped up in the afternoon.
“I was feeling the pressure there on the last few holes, trying not to make bogey,” joked McArthur, whose sole Challenge Tour victory came at the 2008 Challenge de España. “That’s two days without a bogey so maybe I’ll try to bogey the first tomorrow just to get the monkey off my back!
“I played really steady today and played the par fives really well. I didn’t play as well today as the first day but I hit good shots at the right holes to make a couple of eagles, whereas yesterday I holed a few 10 to 12-footers.
“The par fives are quite scoreable here, hitting medium irons in to soft greens. It’s a recipe for eagles so it’s important to get them.
“Even the holes where I've been a bit off-line, I’ve ended up getting decent breaks and good lies so it was quite straight forward but when you play well it’s always straight forward.
“I had a couple of good up and downs on the seventh and the ninth too. They were two of my last three holes and it got a little bit breezy towards the end. I was happy to get off and I made my scores at the right times. I'm looking forward to the weekend now, I’ll just try and keep doing what I’m doing.”
McArthur has been dividing his schedule between The European Tour and the Challenge Tour this season, having earned some starts in The Race to Dubai thanks to his 26th place finish on the second tier last season.
He has struggled, however, to build any momentum thus far in 2014 but knows how quickly things can change in golf.
“In the last few years I’ve started the season pretty well but I’ve played pretty dreadful so far this year, missing a lot of cuts,” he admitted. “I played better on Friday in the Irish Open and for a couple of days at the Scottish Hydro Challenge, so it’s been getting closer.
“It’s nowhere near the finished article. I’ve had one good round here and there but not putting them together so already this is better. I just want to enjoy the weekend now and see what happens.
“I feel as though I'm gradually playing better golf so hopefully I’ll play well in the right weeks now, whether it’s on the Challenge Tour or European Tour. When you do play well, you just have to make sure you play really well.”
Haastrup, meanwhile, enjoyed a spectacular start to his second round as the 30 year old began with four consecutive birdies before picking up two more at the 15th and 16th, his sixth and seventh after teeing off on the tenth.
An eagle at the second, his 11th, meant he was eight under par with six holes still to play, but as the wind began to pick up, he followed up a birdie at the sixth with a double-bogey at the tough par three eighth.
The former Challenge Tour winner was still delighted with his seven under par 65, especially after a difficult start to the season.
“I actually didn’t even feel that good over the ball today,” he said. “I just hit my approaches to the right spots and my putter was really good. Strangely, I played a lot better on my back nine but the wind kicked up and there was rain every now and then, and that made the last few holes really long. But overall I’m very happy.
“I haven’t been up there going into the weekend in a while but I'm just really excited about my first two rounds and hopefully I can keep playing well.”
Robert Coles, who shared the first round lead with McArthur, signed for a four under par second round 68 and fell back to 11 under par, sharing third place with Spaniard Pedro Oriol.