Michael Hoey kept his nose in front and set the clubhouse target on a day of tougher scoring at The Rocco Forte Open – Verdura, Sicily.
The Northern Irishman held a share of the overnight lead after a stunning ten under par 61 on day one but increased winds meant that very low scores were harder to come by in round two at Verdura Golf Club.
Hoey – who lost his playing privileges last season – fired a 68 to get to 13 under, a shot clear of South African Zander Lombard, England’s David Horsey and fellow overnight leader Sebastian Soderberg, who was among the later starters.
England’s Mark Foster fired a 64 to sit at 11 under alongside countryman Lee Slattery, who picked up four shots in his first six holes.
Hoey went birdie-bogey on the second and third but then rattled off gains on the fifth, seventh and ninth to turn in 33. Another birdie on the 11th then helped leave him 14 under and he and Lombard were four shots clear of the field.
A bogey on the 14th stalled his progress but he picked the shot back up on the 17th before missing the green and finishing with a dropped shot.
Lombard had made birdies in bunches on day one and was at it again, claiming a hat-trick from the third and then adding another on the seventh before a fifth gain of the day on the tenth saw him share the lead.
Bogeys on the 13th and last – which was playing as the toughest hole on the course – then stalled his momentum and after a 68 the chasing pack were beginning to close in.
Horsey was among those and he signed for a 66 to also sit just a shot off the lead.
Starting on the 11th, he birdied the 17th but really came to life from the first with some dialled-in iron play helping secure birdies on the first, second, fourth, eighth and tenth to go with a first bogey of the week on the fifth.
Swede Soderberg made birdies on the 12th and 14th in his first five holes.
Foster – a veteran of 423 European Tour events – had to come through the Qualifying School to get his card for 2017 but after a top ten in Portugal last week, the Englishman looked to be regaining his form.
He made a birdie on the second and then four in a row from the seventh before further gains on the 13th and 17th helped keep him blemish-free for the week.
Starting from the 11th, Slattery birdied the 12th, 14th, 15th and 16th, taking his score from the 12th to the 16th to eight under for the week.
South African Haydn Porteous made two eagles in his round of 64 to sit alongside countryman Jbe Kruger, Australian duo Marcus Fraser and Wade Ormsby, Swede Johan Carlsson, German Sebastian Heisele and Norway’s Erik Tage Johansen at ten under.
Renato Paratore delighted the home crowds with a 62 that was the low round of the day so far.
After being three over after four holes on Thursday, he recovered to sign for a 71 and then made nine birdies in a bogey-free second round to sit just four off the lead alongside Ireland’s Gary Hurley and Frenchman Romain Wattel.