A seven-week break appears to have done Thomas Aiken no harm at all – he takes a one-shot lead into Saturday’s third round of the Spanish Open.
The 27-year-old South African, who didn’t even touch a club during a month in the Bahamas, had his second successive 68 at El Prat on Friday to take over at the top from Scotland's Scott Jamieson.
2011 SPANISH OPEN
The Spanish Open will be played over a composite layout made up of the back nine of Real Club de Golf's Yellow Course and the back nine of its Pink Course.
"When I started (practicing) again, I thought, 'what the hell have you done?' because everything felt so strange," said Aiken. "I wasn't expecting much this week. I was using it to prepare for the rest of the season."
As in the first round, Aiken -- six times a winner in his home country, but yet to lift a European Tour title -- made up for two bogeys with six birdies to stand 8 under par.
European Tour rookie Jamieson dropped into a tie for third by following his opening 66 with a 72, a much better score than looked likely when he bogeyed three of the first six holes.
"I was happy to claw it back. More wind made it a bit tricky, but if you hit it well there are plentyh of opportunities for birdies,” said Jamieson. "I struggled with my pace on the greens all day."
In between them is Pablo Larrazabal, playing on his home course and seeking a victory that he will surely dedicate to Seve Ballesteros given the latest fears for the life of Spain's greatest-ever golfer.
Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez, who know the five-time major champion much better of course, were reportedly in tears and unable to speak after reaching halfway on level par and 1 under, respectively.
Alongside 27-year-old Glaswegian Jamieson are England's Anthony Wall, Frenchman Romain Wattel and another of the home contingent, last season's Challenge Tour No. 1 Alvaro Velasco. His 66 was the low round of the day.
Colin Montgomerie, without a top-10 finish for almost three years, had real hopes of climbing into contention at 3 under early in his round, but then came three bogeys and 11 pars in a row for a 74 that dropped him alongside Olazabal just outside the top 40.
England's Steve Webster, tied for second overnight, crashed out of the event with a 79 that contained two triple-bogey 6s, while defending champion Alvaro Quiros missed out by one as well on 2 over when he three-putted the last from a mere 10 feet.