Estanislao Goya clung on to his lead at the Qualifying School Final Stage, but the Argentine’s advantage was cut to just one stroke as several of his nearest rivals profited from more benign playing conditions during day two at PGA Catalunya Resort.
Playing the more demanding Stadium Course, Goya struggled to replicate his opening day heroics, but a round of 71 was just enough to maintain his lead a third of the way through the six day examination.
The 2009 Madeira Islands Open – Portugal champion moved to seven under par courtesy of gains at the first, second and 15th holes, which cancelled out his pair of dropped shots either side of the turn.
Goya cited a wayward driver as the main reason for his inconsistent display, but the 24 year old’s scrambling skills came to the rescue.
He said: “I’m very happy with my score, because I didn’t hit many fairways today. To have an under par round was very good, especially on the Stadium Course, considering I was not very accurate from the tee.
“Golf is like that sometimes, so you just have to keep hanging in there and try to improve tomorrow. Yesterday was really good, and although I didn’t hit the driver very well today, I still hit some good shots. I hit my irons very well and was always on or just around the green, so I didn’t have any real disasters.
“I haven’t been playing well lately, so being here is a consequence of that and I have to accept it. But I have a chance here and I’ll try to make the most of it, so that I can get back playing where I know I belong.”
There is a whole host of players in hot pursuit of the leader, including Frenchman Anthony Snobeck, who started the week on the reserve list but gained an 11th hour entry after a series of withdrawals.
Snobeck flew out the blocks on the Stadium Course, notching three successive birdies from the first hole and adding a further gain at the par three eighth to reach the turn in just 32.
The back nine was a more measured affair, as he mixed two birdies with one bogey to sign for a joint best of the day round of 67 and a six under par aggregate total.
He said: “Just getting into the tournament was a bonus, and to start well is even better. I haven’t played very well this season on the Challenge Tour, but if I manage to get my European Tour card here that will quickly be forgotten, and I can start preparing for the new season.”
Snobeck’s fellow Challenge Tour Member Matteo Delpodio was another player to make the most of the calm conditions in Girona.
For the second successive day, the Italian – who finished runner-up behind amateur Julien Brun of France at the Allianz Golf Open Toulouse Metropole in September – mixed five birdies with two bogeys to move to six under par.
Playing the Qualifying School Final Stage for the first time, Delpodio was effusive in his praise of the two courses at PGA Catalunya Resort which present contrasting, yet equally enjoyable, challenges.
He said: “It helps that the two courses here are both fantastic – although the Stadium is very long. I thought I’d be hitting a lot of wedges into greens, but I’ve hardly hit any so I’ve been practising lots of five and six irons on the range instead. But if you want to get onto The European Tour, you need to be a good player so it’s a very fair test here. If you play well, you will get your rewards – and if you don’t, you’ll be going home!”
In contrast to Delpodio, Gary Orr has a wealth of experience to draw on as he plots a third successful visit to the Final Stage, having earned his card through the Qualifying School in 1992 and 2011.
Orr is a two-time European Tour champion, and the Scot showed his composure and class to bounce back from an opening bogey by hitting a seven iron to six inches at the next hole for a tap-in birdie which was the highlight of his round of 69.
Orr said: “The conditions were great today, there wasn’t a breath of wind out there which made a complete contrast to the first day. The Stadium Course is definitely longer than the Tour, so it was good that we got the more benign conditions today. It’s a very good start so I’m pretty pleased, but as we all know only too well there’s still a long way to go.”
Meanwhile, over on the Tour Course, the Scandinavian duo of Mikko Korhonen and Mikael Lundberg made the most progress, signing for respective rounds of 62 and 68 to join their fellow hopefuls on six under par.
Korhonen in particular was delighted with a blemish-free exhibition which he counted amongst the best of his entire career.
The Finn said: “My ball-striking was absolutely unreal today, like laser beams. I actually only holed two long putts today, all the other ones were just tap-ins – and golf is pretty easy when you don’t have to putt!
“But I played well in my last three events on the Challenge Tour so it’s not out of the blue, it’s been coming for a while. I just hope I can keep it going now.”
Amongst the players on five under par is amateur starlet Moritz Lampert, who outshone several of his supposed superiors with a superb round of 67 on the Stadium Course.
The German ran up a quartet of birdies from the fifth hole, before adding another gain on the 15th in a flawless display which hints at a very bright future in the game.