Alastair Forsyth of Scotland, the first round leader, reclaimed pole position after four rounds of the European Tour Qualifying School at San Roque and Sotogrande.
The 23 year old from Paisley fired a three under par 69 at windswept San Roque to move ahead of Sheffield’s Malcolm Mackenzie, a 15-year Tour regular who clocks up two decades as a professional next year.
However it was Forsyth, a first-timer to the Qualifying School, who commands the lead as the cut in the six-round marathon fell at 292, four over par, with 77 players progressing to the final 36 hole sprint at San Roque. The top 35 and ties at the end of the final round will win their Tour cards for the year 2000.
Forsyth, who has won £25,000 for finishing first on the Tartan Tour Order of Merit and £20,000 from winning the Mastercard Tour, also finished runner-up in the Formby Hall Challenge on the Challenge Tour after losing a delayed play-off to fellow Scot Greig Hutcheon.
He covered the last six holes in three under par for his 69 and a 72-hole total of 278, ten under par. Mackenzie, with a 67 at San Roque, moved through to field to finish the day just one shot off the lead.
Americans Kevin Carissimi and Tom Gillis, both 71, and 1996 Q School winner, Niclas Fasth (68) come next on 280, eight under par, with 1998 Open hero Justin Rose among the front runners at four under par, despite driving into the water at the last and taking a double bogey six.
Forsyth, who led with an opening day 65 at Sotogrande, said: “That was probably just as good as my 65. It was harder today in this wind and I would rather be in this position than anywhere else.
“It’s not enjoyment, but I don’t think this is supposed to be enjoyable. There is so much riding on it. If you gave me 10th placed card right now I’d be off home!”
Mackenzie admitted that his 67 was “the best round of golf” he had played all year, and contained birdies at two of the toughest holes on the course, the second and sixth.
Gillis, who just kept his card the previous year, is in good position to keep his playing privileges after collecting four birdies on his back nine. Carissimi, who finished 16th on the Challenge Tour two seasons ago to miss his card by one place, shot his first ever sub-par round at San Roque and joked: “This course scares me!”
Irishman Phillip Walton, a Ryder Cup hero in 1995, finished strongly with three birdies in the last nine holes for a round of 70 and four round total of 289, one over par, but groaned: “This is like a prison sentence. I get room service then am let out to play golf.”
Rose, who made the cut last year but didn’t secure one of the precious cards, is tied 10th after a round of 72. He was out in 33 but had two sixes on the homeward stretch to drop back from seven under to four under.
He said: It’s a pity about the two sixes. Seven under after nine was looking pretty good. I’ve moved up so it’s a decent day’s work, but could have been a lot better.”