Lucas Bjerregaard and Andrea Pavan took advantage of calmer conditions at Kingsbarns Golf Links to share a one-shot lead heading into the weekend at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
After high winds had made scoring very difficult on day one, both players were bogey-free on Friday as Bjerregaarrd set the target with a 65 before Italian Pavan then went two better to join the Dane at nine under, one clear of a group of three players including two-time defending champion Tyrrell Hatton.
Hatton was the first man to ever successfully defend this title last season and a 66 at the Championship Course Carnoustie put him right in the mix again alongside Australian Marcus Fraser and Austrian Matthias Schwab.
Schwab was bogey-free in a 67 over the Old Course at St Andrews, with Fraser carding a 68 at the Home of Golf
Finn Mikko Ilonen was at seven under after a stunning 63 at St Andrews, alongside England's Ashley Chesters who carded a 64 at Kingsbarns.
Bjerregaard arrived this week off the back of four consecutive top 20s and maintained that form in fine fashion as he looks for a second European Tour title.
“I played solid,” he said. “I didn't have to fight for my par too much out there. I got off to a good start, birdied the first and the third, it was very good. We had an enjoyable day.
“We had absolutely no wind this morning, it was ideal. It was nice to get off to a fast start because you know around here when there's not much, you have to post a few birdies.”
Pavan turned in 33 with birdies on the 11th, 12th and 16th but still looked a long way off contending before he made four in a row from the first. Another gain followed after the D+D REAL Czech Masters champion drove the sixth and a closing birdie moved him to the summit.
“It's great to start playing well like this and give myself chances,” he said. “All I can do is keep plugging along and playing well. The focus is just to get out there tomorrow and play each shot and to have a good game-plan and then we'll see. All you can do is try to play well and be within having a chance on Sunday afternoon.”
Bjerregaard birdied the tenth, 12th and 16th to turn in 33 and when he added another birdie at the third, he was in a three-way tie for the lead.
Schwab was also at six under after gains on the first, seventh and ninth but he then made six pars in a row as some of those around him made their moves.
Birdies at the first, sixth and tenth had Hatton within touching distance and a 12-footer at the 12th meant he was also at six under.
Oliver Bekker was the first man to jump out of that five-man group with a sixth birdie of the day on the 14th but Bjerregaard joined him when he holed a six-footer at the sixth.
A double-bogey from Bekker on the 15th handed Bjerregaard the lead on his own but not for long as Hatton hit a wonderful second to eight feet to eagle the 14th and jump out to eight under.
Bjerregaard joined him with a 20-foot putt on the seventh and continued his brilliant run on the next, holing a monster from the fringe on the eighth to once again take the solo lead.
Schwab broke his run of pars at the 16th and then got up and down after almost driving the last get in the clubhouse at eight under, where he was joined by Hatton who parred his way home.
Fraser had birdied two of his last three holes to get into a share of the overnight lead on Thursday and a birdie-birdie finish in round two got him within a shot of Bjerregaard. He also had gains on the 12th, 18th, first and fifth to go with bogeys on the 17th and sixth.
Ross Fisher broke the course record at St Andrews at this event last season and when Ilonen made a hat-trick of birdies and an eagle from the 11th before birdieing the 17th and 18th, it looked in danger again.
A run of four pars ended those hopes but further birdies on the fifth and ninth led to a 63 that matched the lowest round of the week.
Chesters had gains on the third, sixth, eighth, ninth, 12th, 13th and 15th and, when he put an approach to 15 feet on the last, he was two off the lead.
Ryder Cup hero Tommy Fleetwood fired a 67 at Carnoustie, a score that was matched at Kingsbarns by fellow Englishman Lee Slattery, New Zealander Ryan Fox and Greek Peter Karmis as all four men finished the day at six under.
In the team event, Nacho Elvira and John Van Wyk held a four-shot lead at 20 under.