Justin Rose produced a late fightback to share the lead with Antoine Rozner heading into the weekend at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Sir Nick Faldo.
The Major Champion entered day two at The Belfry with a one-shot lead and still held that when he teed off in the afternoon, with Frenchman Rozner having set the target at six under with a 68.
But he would soon find himself three off the lead after four bogeys in his first ten holes before he picked up three shots in his last seven in a 73 to rejoin Rozner at the summit.
English amateur John Gough was then at five under alongside countrymen James Morrison, Andy Sullivan and Oliver Wilson, defending champion Thorbjørn Olesen, another Dane in Niklas Nørgaard and German Yannik Paul.
Rose claimed the second of his 11 DP World Tour wins at this event back in 2002 and since then has achieved almost everything there is to in the game, winning the 2013 U.S. Open along with Olympic Gold, World Golf Championships, Rolex Series events and topping the Rankings on both sides of the Atlantic en route to being a World Number One.
On a wet and windy day, however, The Belfry can be a test for anyone and Rose was delighted to use all his experience after his poor start on day two.
“If I had gone and shot 76 today, I’d have walked off and been quite bewildered because I did not play that badly but the score had slipped away from me after ten holes and that is what it is,” he said. “The scorecard doesn’t lie at the end of the day.
“You count on those par-fives on the back nine a little bit, 15 and 17, to try to give you some opportunities. But they are certainly no gimmie birdies, either.
“So I’m sticking with it and readjusted my goals. Actually set myself a goal for the last seven holes to be three under par and that’s what it turned out to be.
“Didn’t appreciate that I would still be leading the golf tournament but through 36 holes I’m in a great spot.”
Rozner is enjoying yet another impressive season on the DP World Tour since his 2019 graduation from the European Challenge Tour which was achieved with the help of two wins in as many weeks in Spain and the Czech Republic.
Since then he has finished in the top 50 on the Rankings every season, claiming three wins – including the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open in December – and he has three other top tens and just two missed cuts from 15 starts this campaign.
“I’ve been hitting the ball pretty solid for the most part,” he said. “Putting has been good even though the last few weeks were a bit not as good.
“But I think my whole game is good. I don’t have any weakness in my game, so I think that helps me just be very consistent week after week.
“It’s a course where I’ve never really played well. So just to be able to get out and produce some solid golf, I was really happy with that in the first place. Today, I caught a few putt drops, so that’s good. I’m right where I need to be, so really happy with my game so far.”
Rozner was among the early starters and he put a tee shot to four feet on the tenth and then holed a long putt at the next before surrendering a bogey on the 15th.
A two-putt birdie on the par-five 17th, another long putt on the 18th and a smart approach to 14 feet on the second had him just one back but he bogeyed the fourth before picking the shot back up on the eighth from seven feet.
He was in a share as Rose three-putted from the fringe on the first and soon had top spot to himself as the overnight leader hit a poor tee shot on the fifth.
The home hero was tumbling down the leaderboard as he three-putted the seventh and missed the green at the tenth, with Gough taking over the English charge.
He holed from off the green at the 12th and while he gave the shot back at the 14th, he took advantage of the 17th and holed from 18 feet at the next to share the lead.
A dropped shot at the fourth was followed by an approach to tap-in range at the next which got him back to six under, where he was soon joined by a resurgent Rose.
The 42-year-old put a tee shot to eight feet at the 12th and took advantage of a big drive at the next before making a fifth bogey of the day with a three-putt at the 14th.
But he got up and down from the sand with the help of a 34-footer at the par-five 15th and then made a two-putt birdie on his penultimate hole to get back in a share.
Gough had a chance to take the solo lead after an impressive tee shot at the seventh but missed from 12 feet before finding the water at the next to sign for a 71.
Paul had briefly been at the summit as he recovered from bogeys on the fourth and sixth with birdies on the tenth, 13th, 15th and 17th but a poor chip on the last dropped him back to five under after a 71.
Olesen made five birdies and two bogeys in his 69, a tally shared by Nørgaard, while Sullivan birdied five of his last seven holes in a 68.
Wilson carded a 70 and Morrison signed for a 71 to sit a shot ahead of Scottish pair Ewen Ferguson and Robert MacIntyre and Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune.