Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg moved into a share of the lead at the Czech Open in only his third European Tour appearance of the season as he joined José Manuel Lara on seven under par.
The two-time European Tour winner lost his playing card last season and has been mostly plying his trade on The Challenge Tour in 2011.
But with several big names taking a week off after two weeks in America, Lundberg took full advantage as he reached three under after 15 holes to add to his opening 68.
Lara signed for a four under par 68 to advance to seven under at Prosper Golf Resort, his round concluding with a brilliant 50 foot birdie putt at the ninth - his last.
The Spaniard, who won his second European Tour title at last year’s Austrian GolfOpen, turned in a one over 37 but ripped apart the front nine with five birdies in a brilliant inward 31.
“I played really well on my back nine,” he said. “I struggled a little bit early on because of the wind, but then made five birdies on my back nine, which added up to a good round. So I’m very happy.”
High winds led to difficult scoring and there was almost an hour and a half’s play lost to a mid-afternoon thunderstorm – preventing Lundberg and several others from finishing their rounds.
But Lara felt the break actually eased playing conditions somewhat.
“It [the wind] was coming from all directions, but mainly from left to right. It also made it difficult to read the putts, because you weren’t sure how much the wind was going to affect the ball. So it was very tricky, and I was happy when it died down later in the round.
“The course was a little bit softer than before. And then when the wind came down, the scoring conditions were almost perfect.
“I’m playing well. I just need to keep doing what I’ve been doing for the first two days, and hopefully it will be good enough. We’ll see.”
England’s Oliver Fisher, who only made one cut in his first 21 starts before finishing 35th in Sweden and 45th in Ireland last month, moved into a share of third with a five under par 67.
He was joined on six under by Ireland's Damien McGrane and last year’s runner-up Gary Boyd, with Irishman Shane Lowry, Argentina’s Tano Goya, Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli and Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño – the latter making a welcome return to form after missing most of the season through injury - one further back.
Boyd, whose approach to ninth was within three feet to pick up a fourth shot in five holes, revealed his involvement in a play-off with Hanson and Peter Lawrie last year had left him in good stead.
“It feels like me and Peter are defending champions this week with Peter Hanson not being here,” he said. “This golf course suits us both, and I knew my game was in good shape coming into the week, so it’s been nice to back that up with two good scores. I’m enjoying myself.”
Fisher added: “I’ve had my highs and lows this year, but that’s just the nature of the game. I’ve made the cut in the last three tournaments now, so we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”
Former Volvo China Open winner McGrane’s 71 saw him mix three bogeys and two birdies on the way out, before an improved bogey-free 34 on the way in.
“We got the best of the weather, there’s no doubt about that,” said McGrane, who like Lara, Lundberg, Boyd and Fisher was in the afternoon wave.
“A round of 71 was a reasonable performance, although I probably played a bit better than that. It was funny day out there, and a lot can go wrong on a day like today. I made a lot of birdie chances coming in, but just couldn’t hole the putts. But I hit good putts, so I’m reasonably happy with my performance.”