Lee Westwood pardoned a previously condemned putter to storm into contention for his first European Tour title in almost four years.
Westwood carded a course-record 64, eight under par, in the second round of the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia to lie just two shots off the lead held by stablemate Louis Oosthuizen.
The world number 63 was furious with his putting in an opening 72 and discarded the offending “belly” putter in favour of a standard length club on Friday, and was rewarded with eight birdies in a flawless display at Aloha Golf Club.
Speaking about his new putter, Westwood said: “It’s one I had with me, I brought five out in anticipation of the way things have been going this year.
“I used it in the first round of the US Masters and swore I’d never use it again, but it seems to roll the ball well on these greens and anything would have been better than yesterday. I don’t think yesterday’s putter is going to be seen for a while!
“My long game has been pretty good all year and I just haven’t been able to match it up with a decent putting round so it was nice to get it right today. I went cross-handed, which is something I’ve not done for years, and felt a lot more comfortable on the greens.
“I couldn’t tell you the last time I used the same putter for an extended period of time. I’d say there’s about 200 in the garage. PING will be ringing me up to get some of them back now!
“I’ve even got about six belly putters of varying length, depending on my ’size’ shall we say!”
Westwood’s approach play still deserved much of the credit for his lowest score of the season, a hat-trick of birdies from the fifth coming from a combined distance of just 10ft.
Playing partner Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano added a 68 to his opening 67 to finish one ahead of Westwood on nine under, remaining on course for back-to-back victories following his Italian Open victory on Sunday.
Along with fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, Fernandez-Castano is also staging the event and admitted he was feeling the effects on Thursday.
“I had a good night’s sleep and felt much fresher this morning,” said the 26-year-old, who learned to play on the par-three course adjacent to the tournament course.
“If you told me on Monday I would be nine under after two rounds I wouldn’t have believed you so I can’t complain. I feel more pressure from playing at home and I want to take care of little things because I would like everything to be fantastic.
“It’s amazing, you don’t realise how much work people do behind the scenes and now you appreciate everything that goes on at the tour every week.
“I know everyone in the clubhouse and have great memories of playing here so it’s great to be playing a tour event at Aloha.”
Oosthuizen holed from 20ft on the 18th for his sixth birdie of the day to grab the outright lead, and certainly impressed playing partner Steve Jones, the 1996 US Open champion.
Jones, who joined Westwood on eight under with a 67 – which included an eagle two on the 15th when he holed from 134 yards with a nine iron – said: “You can feed off each other and it was nice to see him really bombing it.
“He’s going to be the one to catch the way he is playing.”
Jones, 48, also competed in last week’s Italian Open and, without a full US Tour card, is happy playing on the Nationwide Tour and whichever PGA Tour events he can until becoming eligible for the lucrative seniors circuit.
Overnight leader Matthew Zions added a 70 to his opening 65 to join Fernandez-Castano and Francois Delamontagne in second place on nine under, despite not feeling 100%.
“I felt a little under the weather this morning, a sore throat and a few shivers, and I drank a bottle of water on every hole,” said Zions, one of only six players to earn their tour card by coming through all three stages of the qualifying school.
“But I feel pretty good now and it’s always nice to finish with a birdie. My wife told me last night I was the outright leader, which I could probably have done without, but I know it doesn’t matter until Sunday.”