Austria’s Markus Brier shot a brilliant 66 to lead former winner Darren Fichardt by a shot at the halfway stage of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy.
A two-time European Tour winner, Brier had to go back to Qualifying School last November to retain his European Tour card and is playing this week on a sponsor’s invite.
And he grabbed the opportunity with both hands, building on his opening 71 with a round including six unanswered birdies to reach seven under for the tournament.
“I could see in the morning it was a little less wind, and so obviously the opportunities were there,” said Brier.
“I kept the ball in play and holed a few two or three really long putts, and that obviously makes the difference between a good and very good round. I didn't make mistakes.
“I was lucky on nine - my last hole - with a wayward drive and made birdie out of it, so that's like a two shot win there. The rest was pretty solid. It's great to be up there again and hopefully it stays like this.”
The 42 year old was 137th on last year’s Race to Dubai - his worst finish since joining the European Tour in 2000 – and the World Number 478 admitted the trip back to Qualifying School may have done him good.
“At the end of the season, I really had to go back to my roots and play Qualifying School,” he added. “I knew I had to start all over again, and fortunately I made it at Qualifying School.
“The first week was pretty good in East London. I was up there again and that helped build up confidence. I just feel more comfortable, and I got my head really on the golf and not so much on other things or bad things like last year.”
Fichardt, a winner here in 2003, moved into second place with a round of 68, with defending champion Robert Karlsson, England’s Richard Finch and Dane Thomas Björn tied for third on five under.
First round leader Retief Goosen was still setting the pace with two holes to go, but while Brier was finishing with a 35 foot birdie putt, the 2007 champion double-bogeyed the short 17th and fell back to four under.
Björn’s seven under 65 was the best of the day and the former Ryder Cup star was delighted with his form.
“It was one of those days where golf seemed a bit easier than it does on normal days,” he said.
“I got off to a fantastic start, two under through six. Even when I hit a few iffy shots, I got away with it.
“It was one of those days where everything just went my way, and I putted well. I had some great chances coming down the stretch to go even lower, but golf just seemed simple today.”
World Number One Lee Westwood and Paul Casey, the winner in Bahrain on Sunday, both shot 75 to miss the cut by one and two strokes respectively.
Westwood's 30 foot eagle attempt on the last to stay alive hovered on the edge, but did not drop.
His exit gives Martin Kaymer the chance to take over at the top of the rankings after he improved seven shots on his first day 77.
The German needs to finish first or second on Sunday, though, and entering the weekend he is ten adrift of Brier.