Matthieu Pavon was eager to maintain momentum after a big finish saw him keep hold of the lead heading into the weekend at the Open de España.
The Frenchman started 64-68 12 months ago at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid en route to a runner-up finish and has gone 63-68 this week to lead the way at 11 under.
For a long time it looked like Pavon would surrender his one-shot overnight cushion on day two but he birdied four of his last six holes to maintain that slender advantage over Dutchman Wil Besseling and India’s Shubhankar Sharma.
Home favourite Alfredo Garcia-Heredia was then at nine under alongside Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera, one shot clear of England’s Nathan Kimsey, with 11 players four shots off the lead.
Pavon is no stranger to being in contention at the right end of a leaderboard, with two wins on the Alps Tour and three second-place finishes on each of the European Challenge and DP World Tours.
This is the second time this season he has led after both 18 and 36 holes, having done the same at the Italian Open before fading away at the weekend, and he knows the importance of keeping his foot on the gas as he seeks a maiden DP World Tour win.
Pavon started his round with seven pars from the 10th and when he flew the green at the par-three 17th to turn in 36, it looked like it would not be his day.
But that seven-footer on the 2nd to save par after finding sand spurred the 30-year-old into action and he got up and down from the sand again at the par-five 4th for a birdie and holed from 23 feet on the 6th.
A lovely approach to five feet at the 8th then had him back in a share of the lead before he put his tee-shot to similar range on the par-three next and reclaimed top spot on his own.
Besseling is in need of a strong finish to the season to keep his playing privileges and he sandwiched a two-putt birdie on the par-five 7th with excellent approaches into the 5th and 12th to get to double figures.
A bogey at the 16th threatened to derail his progress but he made an excellent up-and-down on the last to sign for a 68.
Sharma bogeyed the 3rd but a sand save on the 4th and approaches inside 15 feet on the 5th and 8th saw him turn in 34.
A second bogey of the day on the 10th was followed by an excellent tee-shot on the par-three 11th and he holed from long-range on the 13th, made the most of the par-five 14th and hit a smart approach into the last in a second consecutive 66.
Garcia-Heredia was bogey-free in an excellent 64, while Lorenzo-Vera had a roller coaster of a 68 with an eagle, four birdies and three bogeys.
Kimsey also had an eagle, four birdies and three bogeys in a 68 of his own to sit a shot ahead of France’s Julien Guerrier, who carded the lowest round of the day with a 63.
Guerrier’s fellow Frenchmen Romain Langasque and Antoine Rozner, local favourite Alejandro del Rey, Scot Grant Forrest, Italian Edoardo Molinari, England’s John Parry and Eddie Pepperell, German Marcel Siem, Dane Martin Simonsen and Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti were also seven under.
– Report from DP World Tour website
Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images