Australian Mike Harwood recovered from a mid-round stumble to take a two stroke lead into the final round of the Cannes Mougins Masters after battling 68 in France.
Harwood made an explosive start to his second round with four consecutive birdies from the third hole but after establishing a two-stroke cushion at the top of the leaderboard he then relinquished it when he dropped shots on the 10th and 12th holes.
However, further birdies on the 14th and 16th holes saw him re-establish the outright lead and move to ten under par 134 for the tournament, with Argentine Horacio Carbonetti and defending champion Marc Farry his nearest rivals on eight under par.
“My round was totally different to yesterday,” said Harwood, who opened with a 66. “Yesterday I played terrific tee to green and putted pretty miserably. Today I played miserably tee to green and putted terrific. If you can figure that one out let me know.
“The plan is to figure it out for tomorrow and put it together. This course doesn’t suit my striking at all. It’s quite difficult round that middle part with all the dog-legs right to left, when I hit it left to right. I’m fighting it a little bit and got through it alright.
“I started really well with lots of threes and lots of twos then I was pretty stagnant in the middle part and played pretty nicely coming in, so I’m happy overall.”
Harwood has five top ten finishes to his credit in 2011 and the 52 year old believes poor final rounds have cost him the chance of being closer to friend and compatriot Peter Fowler at the top of the European Senior Tour Order of Merit.
With the closing round at Cannes Mougins taking place on Saturday rather than the usual Sunday finale, Harwood is hoping the change in day will result in a change in outcome for him as he chases his second Senior Tour title.
“Over the last couple of years I have got to a really good score then it has deteriorated at some stage and without that bad score I would have finished in the top two or three so it was pleasing to fight back today,” he said.
“The difference between Peter Fowler and I is that I’ve had a couple of bad Sundays. I had an ordinary Sunday in the ISPS Handa Senior Masters and finished ninth then in Cologne (Berenberg Bank Masters) I was one from the lead and shot 76. If I’d shot 70 in both those rounds I’d be where Pete is so I’m just trying to keep putting myself there.”
Joint overnight leader Farry, who is also co-organising the tournament, remains in contention to retain his title despite some wretched luck on the par five 14th hole.
Farry’s drive hit a pine tree and the Frenchman was unable to find his ball so he had to return to the tee but he sank a 10ft par putt to avoid dropping a shot and then birdied the 16th to sign for a 70.
“I was close to many flags today but I didn’t hole any putts,” said Farry. “I expected to shoot 68 or 69 today and shot 70 so it’s not too bad. I still have a chance.”
Carbonetti, who has only one top 20 finish in 2011, fired six birdies in his round of 68 to share second place with Farry. Former Senior Open Champion Bruce Vaughan, of America, is on seven under par after recovering from a double bogey five on the 11th hole to sign for 71 to share fourth place with Spaniard Juan Quiros, who carded a 68.