Former Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal charged into contention for a first European Tour title for eight years when the second round of the 70° Open d’Italia Lindt began at Golf Club Torino.
The two-time Masters Tournament winner’s last victory came in Majorca in 2005, but four birdies in his first ten holes this morning lifted him to five under par for the week.
That was two behind overnight leading trio Nicolas Colsaerts, Ricardo Gonzalez and Maximilian Kieffer – all of whom were among the afternoon starters, as was fourth place Marcus Fraser.
The Australian had been joined on six under by South African James Kingston, who birdied the tenth, 12th and 15th, with his only bogey coming at the 11th.
Olazábal was sharing sixth place with another South African, Hennie Otto, France’s Julien Quesne, Ireland’s David Higgins and England’s Steve Webster.
Former European Number One Retief Goosen also continued to impress on his return from a four-month injury lay-off.
The two-time US Open winner withdrew from the Players Championship at Sawgrass in May with a back injury, which turned out to be a stress fracture.
The 44 year old admitted he had no idea where the ball was going to go ahead of his competitive return, revealing he lost four balls in a practice round on Tuesday.
But after exceeding his own expectations with an opening round of 70, the South African picked up shots at the tenth - his opening hole - and 14th this morning to improve to four under par.
Former Open Champion David Duval was also climbing up the leaderboard after struggling to an opening 75 which left him battling to make the halfway cut.
Duval birdied the tenth, 12th and 14th to get back to level par, one shot outside the projected cut mark.
Goosen dropped his first shot of the day on the 18th to be out in 35, but bounced back immediately with his third birdie of the day on the first.
However, another bogey on the third dropped him back to three under par, four behind the leading trio who had still not been caught at the top of the leaderboard – England’s Seve Benson setting the clubhouse target at six under with a two under par 70.
Duval remained level par after a birdie on the first was also cancelled out by a bogey on the third.