Antoine Rozner birdied five of his last six holes as he continued his love affair with the Fire Course to take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the AVIV Dubai Championship.
The defending champion stayed bogey-free through 36 holes with a 64 to get to 15 under and take his score over six rounds at this event to 40 under.
Overnight leader Joachim B Hansen also stayed bogey-free for the week with a 67 to sit a shot back alongside Italian Francesco Laporta, who matched Rozner with a 64.
Finn Kalle Samooja made six birdies in a row and seven in his last eight holes in a 64 that left him at 13 under, a shot ahead of English pair Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Waring.
Frenchman Rozner won his maiden European Tour title in the inaugural staging of this event just under 12 months ago at Jumeirah Golf Estates and has since added another in the Middle East at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
He also famously beat Major Champion Bryson DeChambeau at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and while he has not recorded a top 10 since his victory in Qatar, he has found his form again on a very happy hunting ground.
“I think I was playing really well even on the front nine,” he said. “A few putts didn’t drop but I just kept putting myself in good positions hole after hole and a few putts actually dropped on the back nine so that’s great.
“It was definitely one of my best ball-striking rounds out here this year and last year so I’m very happy with my round. The long game was just absolutely perfect, I was striking it shot after shot.
“It’s not that easy, you still have to play well, hit good shots, make some putts. I’m not the only one who’s playing well as well so you’ve just got to keep grinding for the next two days.”
Laporta – who finished in a tie for second here last season – made the most of the par-five 13th and then rattled off five birdies in a row from the 15th to catapult himself up the leaderboard.
He holed a 15 footer at the fifth and then spun a wonderful shot back to two feet on the next to establish a two-shot lead over the rest of the morning starters.
Dane Hansen made his first birdie of the day on the 12th before he holed from holed from five feet on the 17th and made a two-putt birdie on the par-five 18th to turn in 33.
An approach to six feet at the third had him within one and after a brilliant up-and-down to save par on the fourth, a 17 footer on the fifth had him in a share.
Rozner started his day with a birdie on the first and made a two-putt gain on the par-five seventh before making six birdies in eight holes on the back nine.
After a five-footer brought a gain on the 11th, he added another with a two-putt on the 13th, holed from around 12 feet on the 14th and 15th and left himself two feet at the 16th to join the lead after almost driving the green.
He got a fortunate lie off the tee at the 18th and while he could not find the green in two, he got up and down with another putt from 12 feet to hit the front on his own.
Samooja sandwiched a bogey on the 13th with a pair of birdies but caught fire on his second nine, making six birdies in a row from the second and adding another on the ninth.
Fleetwood overcame an early bogey with seven birdies in a 66, while Waring had a bogey and a double on his card but recorded a 67.
South African Dean Burmester, American Sean Crocker, Frenchman Robin Roussel and Austrian Bernd Wiesbrger were four shots off the lead.
– Report from europeantour.com