Scotland’s Richie Ramsay dug deep to preserve a two-stroke advantage going into the closing 36 holes of the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama.
But the 28-year-old from Aberdeen may well have to fight off the challenge of a back-to-form Sergio Garcia if he is to land his second European Tour title.
Having started with a brilliant 65, Ramsay is now five under par after a two-birdie, three-bogey 72. France’s Gregory Havret – runner-up to Graeme McDowell in last year’s US Open – is three under.
Garcia, winner of his home Castello Masters by a stunning 12-stroke margin last Sunday, is one further back after a second successive 70 on a layout where he has been a runner-up three times.
“Going up against one of your idols is a dream situation,” said Ramsay. “It was a really tough day and I hung in there. It just illustrates how good my six under round was.
“I hit so many fairways and so many greens, but couldn’t get the ball to drop. But my ball-striking was good and I’ve got to take the positives out of it.”
Garcia needs to win again to qualify for next week’s world championship in Shanghai.
“I could have been a little bit more aggressive with a couple of putts coming in, but my short game is pretty good right now,” he said.
“It was difficult to hit fairways and to choose the right club. Thankfully it’s soft because, if not, this would be hell.
“But I’ve always enjoyed hard courses. Back-to-back wins would be a great thing, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Valderrama can catch you any time. That’s the beauty of it. A course doesn’t need to be long to be tough.”
Sheffield’s Danny Willett had three birdies in a round of 74 that was just enough for him to make the weekend.
Hull’s Richard Finch birdied the final hole to make the cut, but Harrogate’s John Parry missed out on 14 over after shooting an 80 yesterday.
Rory McIlroy still leads the race for golf’s biggest first prize of £1.25m after the second round of the Shanghai Masters.
Northern Ireland’s US Open champion, who refused to speak about his management switch after his opening 64, added a 69 yesterday to be 11 under par and two in front of 20-year-old Korean Noh seung-yul.
McIlroy was overtaken when he double-bogeyed the ninth, but collected birdies at the 11th, 13th, 15th and 18th.
Noh’s 63 swept him one ahead of third-placed pair Louis Oosthuizen and Anthony Kim, while Padraig Harrington is tied fifth with Hunter Mahan and joint seventh are Ian Poulter and Robert Karlsson.
Lee Westwood’s 70 left him six behind with Charl Schwartzel, Colin Montgomerie and John Daly.