Nick Dougherty proved that form is temporary but class is permanent as an impressive two under par round of 70 handed him a joint overnight lead alongside five others after the second round of the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic.
The three-time European Tour winner joined Daniel Brooks, Espen Kofstad, Chris Hanson, Jamie McLeary and Sebastian L Saavedra on three under par as the race for the title in the $250,000 event was poised for an exciting weekend with seven more players just one shot back at Country Club de Barranquilla, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
Dougherty will no doubt be the centre of attention come the weekend, however, as his superb start to the 2012 season continued with the impressive statistic of just one bogey during his second round, following a one under par opening round of 71.
The Englishman negotiated the opening 13 holes without a single blemish in extremely in windy conditions, carding birdies at the sixth, 12th and 13th holes before dropping a shot at the 15th.
“I played quite well,” said the man from Liverpool. “When I arrived in the morning there wasn’t much wind so I thought I was going to have it easy but it picked up. It was a challenge out there again.
“The front nine, I played really solid and I did miss a chance at the 18th to go four under but overall I’m really pleased. I can’t expect to come to a course like this, when my confidence has been so low, and feel a million dollars when it’s blowing like it is, so I’m very pleased with how I applied myself.”
After a torrid season on The European Tour in 2011, the 29 year old took a long winter break from the game and hadn’t played competitively since missing the cut at The European Tour’s Qualifying School Final Stage last December. He believes that the break, as well as the change in scenery on his Challenge Tour debut, have been the main contributing factors to his resurgence.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming here” he admitted, “I could have come and shot in the 100s because I hadn’t played in so long. I've never had a break like that since I started playing the game and it’s the best possible outcome so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully I’ll free up on the course a bit more at the weekend.
“To make the weekend was not my purpose out here but like I said before, it’s baby steps. I’ve played poorly for a couple of years and I’m working hard at it and I feel like I’m making some really good progress in my mind now so it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
Brooks, the joint overnight leader after the opening day, carded a one over par 73 to add to his four under par opening round of 68 while the other overnight leader, Manny Villegas, signed for a two over par second round of 74 to drop one shot back in tied seventh.
Kofstad, who finished 27th in the Challenge Tour rankings last year, was happy with his lot as he recovered from bogeys at the 10th, his first hole, and 14th to sign for birdies at the 15th, 18th and seventh and join the top of the pile.
“It’s tough out there,” said the Norwegian, “I feel like the wind wasn’t quite as strong in the morning but it’s hard. I keep aiming outside of the greens to try and hit the centre.
“I'm happy with where I am going into the weekend; just more of the same now - no need to do anything differently as it seems to be working. It’s difficult to attack, the par fives are the only chances you have because if you get it in play, they’re quite short so you can get a great shot in and two putt for birdie.”
Englishman Hanson, meanwhile, has made a solid start to his first season on the Challenge Tour, having won the EuroPro Tour last year and he carded a three under par 69 thanks to five birdies and two bogeys.
“I just putted solidly today,” said the 26 year old, “I saved myself a few times from six or eight feet, so I putted well and controlled my ball really well. I feel really comfortable on the greens. It’s all new territory for me getting away from England and Europe so I’ve found it good.”
McLeary’s performance was particularly impressive considering the Scotsman double-bogeyed the par five fifth after a birdie on the first, before grinding his way back with six birdies and just one more dropped shot earning him a three under par round of 69.
Saavandra of Argentina had an extremely steady round, with just a single bogey, at the second, complemented by one birdie at the 15th hole to sign for a level par 72.A real battle awaits the leaders at the weekend though, with home favourite Villegas and European Tour winners Philip Archer and José-Filipe Lima among the players breathing down the leaders’ necks in tied seventh.