Barxcelona - South African Thomas Aiken mastered the Spanish Open winds on Friday to fashion a one-shot lead with a four-under 68 in the second round.
He was surprised though by his immediate return to form after having taken a long break to recharge his batteries.
"I'd played 19 out of 20 weeks so I decided to take seven weeks off," Aiken told Reuters after an eight-under tally of 136 left him one stroke in front of Spain's Pablo Larrazabal.
"I was feeling very rusty when I came here and I must confess I hardly expected this. I also made a few swing changes back home and it's always difficult to take them to the course."
Aiken had third, fifth, sixth and seventh-place finishes before his break and was delighted to get another chance to break his European Tour duck.
He shrugged off the difficulty of strong winds that spoiled many cards at the 7,296-yard Greg Norman-designed El Prat course near Barcelona because of his vast experience of playing in Europe, Aiken said.
"You get some windy days on the coast back home but I've been on the European Tour for 10 years now and I've learned to adapt to all conditions," the South African explained.
"That's why I think European Tour players like (U.S. Masters champion) Charl Schwartzel and (British Open winner) Louis Oosthuizen are doing so well in the world.
"Unlike the U.S. Tour most of the time, we have to have the ability to vary our game."
Larrazabal's 70 kept his dream alive of winning at his home course. He was a stroke better than British pair Scott Jamieson and Anthony Wall, Frenchman Romain Wattel and Spain's Alvaro Velasco.
Two of the tournament favourites had mixed fortunes at the end of their rounds.
Italian Matteo Manassero, 18, birdied three of the last four holes to make the cut on one-under 143 while holder Alvaro Quiros of Spain three-putted the last from four feet to miss out by one stroke.