Darren Clarke birdied the last two holes to retain his overnight lead with a 3-under-par 69 in the second round of the Volvo PGA Championship on Friday.
The big Northern Irishman, who is 9-under on 135, led by a stroke from Niklas Fasth of Sweden, who continued his run of hot golf by firing a 5-under-par 67.
The Ryder Cup Swede led in turn by one from two-time winner Ian Woosnam (68-69), Irish Open winner Soren Hansen (69-68), Spanish Open champion Ken Ferrie (70-67) and unheralded Englishman Robert Rock (69-68).
Ernie Els birdied the last two holes for his second successive 69 to join a large group three shots behind and keep alive his chance of a first victory in this event in eight attempts.
Clarke was again pleased with his game from tee to green, but unhappy with his putting.
"I hit the ball as well as yesterday and I had numerous chances. I was hitting the edges [of the holes] all day," he said.
"Patience is being severely tested at the moment, but that's what happens. Again, I have to keep playing the way I have been and hopefully my scores will get better."
He two-putted the two closing par-5s after reaching the greens in two.
World number two Els was satisfied with his return from three weeks off with a wrist injury but said he will need to do better Saturday or Sunday to have a chance of victory.
Winner four times and second twice in six stroke play events at the start of the year, the South African said he felt his game was getting closer. "Today was very close. Physically I felt good."
He was hurt by three-putt greens at the 10th, from 35 feet, and the 15th, from 55 feet.
"Even though I missed three putts inside five feet, I feel my putting touch is coming back too," he said.
The most dramatic shot of the day came from Colin Montgomerie even though he broke his club making it.
Montgomerie's drive at the first wound up among the trees on the left of the fairway with the ball a foot behind one. While most players would opt to chip out, the Scot took a 5 wood and launched his second shot, the head flying off after impact with the tree but the ball traveling 200 yards to just short of the green.
He made a par 4 on the way to a 2-under 70 and a share of 11th place on 5-under 139.
"Let's get one thing clear here: I didn't do that in anger," a smiling Montgomerie said to the fans who saw his amazing shot.
Jose Maria Olazabal extended his record of making the cut here to 16 successive times by adding a 71 to his openoing 68.
Former Ryder Cup captain Mark James, two days after chairing the meeting at which Sev Ballesteros was reprimanded and fined after his disqualification from the Italian Open, followed up his 1st-round 83, which included a six-putt, with an 88. James, 49, called it "one of the worst experiences of my career. I've been having an awful time."