Floris De Vries moved two strokes clear in the Mugello Tuscany Open after recovering from a bogey start to post a three under par 68 in Italy.
The Dutchman, who started his second round on the tenth tee at the par 71 UNA Poggio dei Medici Golf Club, three putted the opening hole but did not let that setback affect his game as he went on to add four birdies to his card to move to seven under par 135 for the tournament.
De Vries took advantage of all three par fives and added another birdie on the fifth hole – his 14th - to lead from Scotland’s former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart and Jan-Are Larsen of Norway, who are tied for second on five under par.
“I went out hoping to birdie the opening hole and thought I was going to when I hit my three wood to five metres but then I hit the first putt a metre past and then missed the return,” said De Vries.
“That was a bit disappointing to start like that but I kept positive and then birdied both the par fives on the front nine. I played really well today – much better tee to green than I did yesterday. My short game was on form again and I birdied all of the par fives.
“I think on the front nine I had eight single putts in a row so my putter is working too.”
The 20 year old, who began with a 64 in the ALLIANZ Open Côtes d’Armor Bretagne before finishing in a share of 17th place, said he was relishing being out in front.
“I felt really comfortable today,” he said. “This is what you practice for – to be in the lead.
“Some guys get nervous but I’m just trying to embrace it and enjoy it. The last couple of times I’ve been in the lead I started thinking about other things – what it would be like to win – and I tried too hard. I’m just going to try to focus on each shot instead.”
Larsen, who has two top ten finishes on the European Challenge Tour already this season, had suffered a disappointing bogey-bogey finish to his first round but put that behind him as he began with a steady run of seven straight pars before carding four birdies and two bogeys.
He said: “I was very consistent today but I felt like I left a few out there. I had three or four ten to 12 foot putts which, with these true greens, I should have made.
“It was a good comeback on the back nine though and I’m in a good position. It was a tough finish last night though. We took six hours 20 minutes which is probably an hour longer than I’ve ever played so I was quite tired when we finished. So I was pleased with today’s score.”
Coltart chipped in for birdie on the last hole – the fifth of his round - to sign for a round of 68, which could have been even better had it not been for bogeys on the 14th and 17th holes.
He said: “I’ve played pretty nicely the last two days and I felt good coming here. Today I played well until the 13th hole and then had a bit of a slip up on the 14th and 17th so it was nice to chip in for birdie on 18 and end on a high.”
Swede Peter Gustafsson, who is looking to continue his affinity with Italy this season after finishing tied third in the BMW Italian Open in Turin earlier this month, is in a group a further shot back on four under par.
The 33 year old is tied for fourth place with compatriots Frederik Henge and Joel Sjöholm, Spaniard Javi Colomo and Italian Alessandro Tadini, who leads the home challenge.
Sjöholm posted five birdies in six holes on is back nine to get within a shot of De Vries but slipped back after a double bogey five on the tricky 218 yard par three eighth hole – his penultimate of the day.