Former Open champion Paul Lawrie rolled back the years to put himself in pole position for a third victory in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on Thursday.
Lawrie’s first win in Qatar came in 1999, the same year as his Open triumph at Carnoustie, with the second in 2012 helping him secure a Ryder Cup return at Medinah after an absence of 13 years.
The 47-year-old also won the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2012 but has not tasted victory on the European Tour since, but a second round of 66 at Doha Golf Club gave him the clubhouse lead on 11 under par.
Starting on the back nine, Lawrie birdied the 10th and 12th before dropping just his second shot of the week on the 15th, but bounced back with birdies on the 16th and 18th to reach the turn in 33.
With the wind forecast to strengthen during the day, the early starters knew they needed to take advantage of the better conditions and Lawrie did just that, carding birdies on the fourth, seventh and ninth.
“It was pretty much the same as yesterday to be honest,” Lawrie told Sky Sports. “I played nicely tee to green, hit a lot of good shots and only made one mistake, three-putting from 20 feet on the 15th.
“When you play as nicely as that and control the flight of the ball like I did yesterday, you know if you hole a few putts you are going to shoot low, so it was a good day.
“They put the tees forward today, thinking the wind was going to blow pretty hard, and then this morning it was dead calm, so I got a little frustrated after 15 because I thought you are not taking advantage of the conditions. But then I played some nice golf and made a few birdies.”
France's Gregory Bourdy was safely in the clubhouse on nine under after a 68 which featured a hole-in-one on the eighth, the first in the history of the event.
“It’s always nice to get a hole-in-one,” said Bourdy, who holed out with a six iron from 183 yards. “It’s my third on Tour and it’s great actually. I missed a few birdies before the eighth and then straight in with a six iron, so it was like two birdies straight.
“Having to play at 6.40, I think it was a good thing this morning. It was not so hard. I think it was blowing a little harder yesterday and we could feel at the end, the last few holes, it was blowing a little bit more. So maybe this afternoon it will be a bit more difficult. I hope so!”
Bourdy was joined on nine under by England's Andrew Johnston, who recovered from a double bogey on the third to card a 69, with 2014 champion Sergio Garcia and Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen a shot further back.
Garcia added a 66 to his opening 70 despite again missing a number of good birdie chances, although the world number 12 partially made amends by holing a curling putt from 40 feet on the eighth.
That drew some exuberant celebrations from the 36-year-old, who was asked if they were new dance moves by TV interviewer Nick Dougherty.
“Well, I don’t know if they were dance moves. They were like jabs,” Garcia joked. “When we got to the ninth tee I said to my caddie and to the guys that celebration I think is going to look a little bit funny on TV.
“Probably from the 17th hole onward, I hit six really good putts that looked like they were going in and they didn’t. I ended up making a bomb on eight, but obviously it could have been a little bit better.”