Turin, Italy – Richard Bland birdied his last three holes on Friday to post his second straight 66 and take the second-round lead of the Italian Open.
Bland finished at 12-under 132 and is one stroke clear of four players at Royal Park I Roveri.
Gregory Bourdy fired an 8-under 64 and is tied for second with 2007 champion Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (65), Garth Mulroy (67) and Marc Warren (65) at 11- under par.
Richard McEvoy carded a 4-under 68 and is alone in sixth at minus-10.
First-round leader Joel Sjoholm managed a 1-under 71 on Friday and is tied for seventh with Joakim Lagergren (65), last week's runner-up Pablo Larrazabal (66), Richard Sterne (68), Mikael Lundberg (65), Sam Little (68) and Victor Dubuisson (69). The group finished at 9-under 135.
Bland distanced himself from this crowded leaderboard with his play at the end of the round.
"When it wasn't going my way on the front nine, I didn't panic," said Bland. "I knew there were chances out there and it was just a question of waiting. I don't go for the panic button which I might've done five or six years ago."
Bland started well with a birdie at the first, then he parred the next nine holes. He got to 8-under par with a birdie at the 11th, his second in as many rounds on the par-5 hole.
After two birdies in his first 13 holes, Bland caught fire.
He birdied the par-4 14th, a hole he bogeyed in Thursday's first round. Bland parred the 15th, then closed his round in style.
Bland knocked it close at both the 16th and 17th holes to set up easy birdies. He was knotted in first place at 11-under par, but hit two great shots at the par-5 finishing hole to take sole possession of the lead.
"There's still 36 holes to go - all it is right now is a great position," said Bland. "There are great players behind me, it's low scoring, so two 70s isn't going to get it done.
"I'll probably have to shoot 10-under from here, but that's a good thing. You've got to keep making birdies, you have to keep your foot on the accelerator."
Bland is in search of his first European Tour victory, but perhaps more importantly, he's looking to earn his status for next year. He's 126th in the Race to Dubai and the top 115 keep their cards.
"I've had a tough couple of years, but that's behind me now and I'm just trying to move forward and improve every day," said Bland, who had to go to Q School last year. "I'm leading and I'm not going to complain, but I feel there's a lot of room for improvement. When you don't feel like you've got your A-game and you're 12-under and leading, it's fantastic. If I can get my swing clicked into place, it should be a good weekend."
All three European Ryder Cuppers in the field played well.
Martin Kaymer shot a 6-under 66 and is tied for 14th at minus-8, 2006 winner Francesco Molinari had a 3-under 69 and shared 22nd at 7-under par and Nicolas Colsaerts posted a 67 and is in at 6-under 138.
NOTES: Defending champion Robert Rock had his second consecutive 2-under 70 and made the cut on the number at 4-under par...European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal shot the same score as Rock through two days...Edoardo Molinari, who returned this week after a 3-month absence due to a wrist injury, missed the cut by a stroke.