England’s Lee Slattery insists a relaxed attitude was paying dividends as he marched into the halfway lead at the Bankia Madrid Masters.
The 33 year old shot a six under par 66 to reach 11 under in windy conditions at El Encin Golf Hotel, one ahead of Ryder Cup Italian Francesco Molinari and Spaniard Eduardo De La Riva.
Slattery lost his card by only €77 in 2007 and at 136th on The Race to Dubai faces another nervy end to the season.
Victory in the Spanish capital would end any exemption worries, and three birdies before the turn boosted the Challenge Tour graduate’s chances.
He picked up another shot at the tenth, but then suffered his only bogey of the day at the 12th.
Slattery responded with a magnificent 80 foot birdie putt at the 14th before back-to-back birdies to finish.
"I got off to a good start, I was two under early and just kept it together and had a nice finish, birdied the last two holes,” he said.
“It’s mainly down to putting, I’ve putted well today, and I seemed to hole everything. I drove the ball well - on this course you can give it a good smack off the tee and you feel yourself trying to hit it harder and harder.
“I was actually getting too cautious with my game but round here you can’t be, you just whack it. This suits me because I just enjoy it and don't think too much - that’s the key. I’ve been so relaxed out there, I don’t think I’ve ever walked off the course feeling so relaxed after shooting a 66.
“Maybe it’s the routine of having a siesta in the afternoon. It’s a nice place to come and the people are friendly.”
WGC-HSBC Champions winner Molinari had carded a five under par 67 with six birdies and a solitary bogey, the highlight coming with an approach to five feet at sixth.
And the 28 year old was pleased with the quality of his ball striking.
“A good solid round, I’m hitting the ball better than I was this summer,” he said. “Today’s round was trickier than yesterday’s because of the wind.
“I’m even more pleased today. Five under is a good score in any conditions.”
De La Riva, who is yet to finish in the top ten of a European Tour event and lost his card a year after coming through the 2002 Qualifying School matched his opening 67 to share second place, with Molinari’s compatriot Lorenzo Gagli in fourth on nine under.
“Last year I took a sabbatical after a couple of bad seasons, both mentally and game-wise,” said 29 year old De La Riva. “Now I am back, feeling motivated and excited about playing golf.
“Although I played well all year, in August I didn’t feel prepared enough to go to the Qualifying School, but I plan to go in the near future.
“I have played solid all year round, trying to make the putts which I holed yesterday and today.
“I feel calm and comfortable with my game, and hopefully I will keep this frame of mind over the weekend.
“I will try to keep patient and maybe a bit aggressive, as I have much to gain and nothing to lose.”