David Horsey will take a two shot lead into the weekend at the M2M Russian Open after finishing his round strongly for the second day running at Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club.
Leading by one overnight after a flawless opening 65 which featured three birdies in the last four holes, the Englishman initially came back to the pack with bogeys at the 12th and 13th after starting his second round at the tenth.
Birdies at the 14th, 17th and 18th steadied the ship as Horsey turned in 35, only for the two-time European Tour winner to drop a shot at the first.
But four gains over the last six holes saw Horsey, whose last victory came in Morocco three years ago, post a 68 and 11 under par halfway total.
“I got off to a slow start but I managed to bounce back well,” said Horsey. “I tried to do the same as yesterday and stick to my game and not worry about much else.
“Dropping a couple of shots early on is always disappointing, but I knew there’d be plenty of chances to come and I just needed to stay patient and keep giving myself putts for birdie.
“The approach shots are the key here. The fairways are wide so you don’t see guys missing too many fairways. There’s a bit of water, so it’s just about minimising to mistakes and not giving away too many shots when you do make a mistake. Then ultimately it’s about holing putts, the same as every other week.
“I’ve got a while now until the next round, so I’ll be recharging the batteries this afternoon and hopefully I’ll be raring to go tomorrow.”
Horsey’s 133 halfway aggregate saw him two clear of Belgian rookie Thomas Pieters, who carded a second round 68 featuring seven birdies and three bogeys.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement, which is always nice, and I’ve holed a few putts too,” said the Open de España runner-up.
“I’m very happy with my game. I’ve been working hard on some stuff and it doesn’t happen right away. It takes time, and it’s nice to see the hard work paying off this week with a couple of good rounds.
“I learned a lot from my experience at the Spanish Open. I stayed very calm, which surprised me. I felt comfortable there, which gives me a lot of confidence going into the next two rounds here.
“The course is great and the best thing that suits me is the driving. If you can drive it long and straight off the tee you will do well on this course.”
England’s Gary Boyd and Scotland’s Pete Whiteford are two shots further back in third, the latter after battling back from a poor start to card a one under 71.
Whiteford, who came into the event on the back of eight consecutive missed cuts, double bogeyed the 15th and was four over for the day at one stage, but was delighted with the fighting spirit he displayed.
“The start was shocking,” he admitted. “The first tee shot was straight in the rubbish, and I was four over after five holes. But it was a good fightback.
“Strangely, I felt like I was swinging it better today, but there are still some absolutely wild ones in there which cost me today. The good shots are really good, but there are some calamities.
“Even that shot to the last there – it was an easy nine iron and I just hooked it into the bunker. It makes it exciting though – I don’t really know where to look once I’ve struck it! I’m not playing great so I’m delighted with the way I’m scoring and I’m in with a chance, which is just what I need.”
Whiteford’s compatriot Scott Jamieson, Spain’s Nacho Elvira, Germany’s Max Kieffer, Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar and England’s Gary Boyd share fourth on six under.