Jesper Svensson will take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the DP World and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned Investec South African Open Championship after carding a 67 on day two at Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate.
The Swede entered the day three shots behind countryman Joakim Lagergren but turned in 32 to share the lead and recovered from a late wobble to sit at nine under ahead of Lagergren, local favourite Casey Jarvis and Italy’s Matteo Manassero.
French duo Frederic Lacroix and David Ravetto were then two shots off the lead alongside South African Ryan van Velzen.
Svensson is playing just his sixth DP World Tour event this week in a rookie season earned via finishing fifth on last season’s Road to Mallorca.
The 27-year-old enjoyed an impressive amateur career both in his homeland and the United States before returning to Europe to compete in the Nordic Golf League after turning professional.
A victory at last season’s B-NL Challenge Trophy on the European Challenge Tour helped him gain his card and he is now challenging for another win after finishing 70th at last week’s Joburg Open.
“To lead feels great,” he said. “We’re halfway through and I’m happy to be in a good position.
“The weekend is going to be great, being in the final group on Saturday is going to be a lot of fun.
“I had some bogeys coming in and it felt good to come back with a birdie, I’m happy. I had the putter on fire from the beginning and rolled in some good putts.”
Overnight leader Lagergren was quickly up to nine under with a birdie-birdie start but he bogeyed the third before picking the shot back up at the fourth.
Another dropped shot came at the seventh and he then rattled off 11 straight pars, agonisingly lipping out on the 17th and three-putting the par-five 18th after hitting the green in two in his 71.
Jarvis got up and down on the first for a birdie but bogeyed the second and fourth before making a two-putt birdie on the fifth to turn two off the lead.
A stunning third to tap-in range after laying up at the tenth then started a run and he holed a 20-footer from off the green at the next and a putt from slightly closer range on the 12th to lead alone.
Svensson – who started on the back nine – sandwiched a birdie on the 12th by taking advantage of the par-five tenth and 13th and another gain on the 14th had him one back.
A two-putt gain on the 18th put him in a share and he put an approach to 11 feet at the fourth to be the first man this week into double figures.
When Jarvis bogeyed the last for a 70, the lead was two, but Svensson dropped shots on the fifth and sixth to make it a four-way tie before recovering with a birdie on the seventh.
Manassero had started on the back nine and he birdied the tenth and 15th to turn in 35.
A two-putt on the first saw him creep further up the leaderboard and while he dropped a shot on the fourth, he hit back with birdies on the fifth and seventh to sign for a 68.
Van Velzen made seven unanswered birdies in a 65 that was the lowest round of the day, while Lacroix had an eagle on the fifth, four birdies and two bogeys in a 68.
Ravetto joined them late in the day, making five birdies and two bogeys in a 69 to sit a shot ahead of another Frenchman in Romain Langasque, home trio Oliver Bekker, Louis de Jager and Hennie Du Plessis and German Matti Schmid.
Early in the day, South African Jacques Blaauw made the third ace of the season when he holed a four iron from 220 yards on the 11th.