Dubai-domiciled Spaniard Adrian Otaegui will take a one shot buffer into moving day at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters but looked in a hurry to get to Sunday as early as Friday night.
The 25-year-old rattled off three successive birdies on the 16th, 17th and 18th at Doha Golf Club to sign for a 66 to move to 11-under, a stroke ahead of Scot Stephen Gallacher, Frenchman Grégory Havret, England’s Eddie Pepperell and South African Erik van Rooyen.
Otaegui won his first European Tour title at last season’s Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play and has developed in one of the most consistent performers on Tour, making his last nine cuts. He opened with a bogey-free 67 on Thursday and went one better in round two, making a single bogey as he leapfrogged Van Rooyen, who had set the target in the morning.
“I know I’m playing well, I’m confident with my game at the moment and I’m just trying to keep my momentum going,” said Otaegui.
“I’m really looking forward to the weekend now. I just wanted to stay patient hole after hole and we’ll see what happens.”
Van Rooyen, the rookie who finished third on last year’s Challenge Tour to earn his spot on the European Tour, has made himself right at home, finishing second at the Joburg Open in December and is well placed to make a weekend charge for a maiden win here in Qatar.
“Patience has been the key for me over the last couple of days,” said the South African, who followed an opening 68 with a 66.
“It’s quite a tricky course and my first time here so it’s really fun out there. The whole experience has been fantastic. Mentally I’ve been really good, I haven’t been flustered at all and I’m putting really well so I’m just going to stick with that. I’m in a good spot and looking forward to it.”
Pepperell and Havret had held a share of the day one lead and they both carded rounds of 69 in the afternoon to remain side by side. Havret stayed bogey-free for the week, making birdies on the 12th, 16th and first, while Pepperell recovered from a bogey on the sixth with an eagle on the tenth and gains on the 16th and last.
Gallacher was unblemished in his 66, the highlight being a 50-foot putt on the 13th to add to birdies on the first, fourth, ninth, 14th and 17th.
South African George Coetzee also signed for a 66 to sit in the group at nine under that also includes German Sebastian Heisele, Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal Crocker and Fisher.
Crocker eagled the 16th and the last in a spectacular end to his 68 – a clear sign that he is adapting well to his new surroundings. The 21-year-old has no official status on the European Tour and played his first four events of the season on invites, securing an impressive pair of top tens in Australia.
Of the players with local connections, MENA Tour player Josh White of England took full advantage of his invite following his Qatar Open professional victory to make the cut on the mark.
Pakistani amateur Ahmed Baig shot an impressive three under par 69 in the second round but missed the second round cut at one under for 36 holes. Also missing the cut was defending champion Jeunghun Wang on one under.
Moroccan professional Ahmed Marjan shot a two round total of one over par while local and regional amateurs Ali Saleh al Kaaba (Qatar) shot eight over par, Shergo al Kurdi (Jordan) nine over par and Ali al Shahrani (Qatar) 13 over par for their respective two round scores.
The last group of Pepperell, van Rooyen and Otaegui are out at 11:20am on Saturday.