Lee Slattery of England carded a 6-under 66 on Friday to lead the European Tour’s Bankia Madrid Masters by one shot at the halfway stage.
Slattery made seven birdies and one bogey in the second round at El Encin Golf Hotel to lie 11 under on 133 for the tournament. He leads Spanish golfer Eduardo de la Riva and Italian Ryder Cup player Francesco Molinari going into the final two rounds.
“I got off to a good start, I was 2 under early and just kept it together and had a nice finish,” Slattery said. “I was actually getting too cautious with my game but round here you can’t be, you just whack it. This suits me because I just enjoy it and don’t think too much. That’s the key.”
Defending champion and No.1-ranked player Luke Donald of England pulled to within three shots of the lead at one point, but fell back with two bogeys in the final three holes to card a 70 and move to 6 under for the tournament.
“A disappointing finish, but it’s not easy with the wind,” Donald said. “I played well the tougher holes and then I played the easy ones poorly. A couple of bad swings, really. “
Molinari, a member of the victorious Ryder Cup team last year, said he was hitting the ball better than he was during the summer.
"Today's round was trickier than yesterday's because of the wind," he explained. "I'm even more pleased today. Five under is a good score in any conditions."
Slattery barely lost his card by about $100 in 2007, and at No. 136 on the current money list, is again in danger of falling off the main tour this season, but the 33-year-old rolled in an 80-foot birdie putt at the 14th before finishing with two straight birdies.
“I don’t think I’ve ever walked off the course feeling so relaxed,” he said.
First-round leader and 2009 champion Ross McGowan of England followed his opening 64 with a level-par 72 to remain 8 under.
“I struggled a bit on the greens. They are playing quicker today and I didn’t really get the speed at all,” McGowan said. “After yesterday’s scoring the pins are tucked in and the wind picked up, so it’s a bit tougher.”
Donald looked set for a second consecutive 68, or better, after playing his first 15 holes in 4 under par with five birdies coming after a bogey on the second. But the world No. 1 dropped a shot on the 16th after missing the green with his tee shot and fluffing a chip, while another shot went when he surprisingly three-putted the par-5 18th from short range.
Slattery bounced back from his only dropped shot at the 12th with a monster birdie putt on the 14th.
"It's mainly down to putting," he said. "I putted very well today, seemed to hole everything. I drove the ball well. On this course you can give it a good smack off the tee and you feel yourself trying to hit it harder and harder.
"I was actually getting too cautious with my game but round here you can't be, you just whack it. This suits me because I just enjoy it and don't think too much -- that's the key. I don't think I've ever walked off the course feeling so relaxed."