Asking for a late invitation to the Scottish Open could turn out to be one of the best decisions of Phil Mickelson's career - even if he cannot catch Francesco Molinari in Sunday's final round.
Outside the top 120 after an opening 73, the American, with one eye on the coming British Open at Royal Lytham, has charged all the way to a joint fifth place on Saturday after adding a 65 to his 64 on Friday.
Among the players he moved past was world No 1 and defending champion Luke Donald, but he still trails Molinari by three.
The Italian fired a 67 to reach 17-under par, one better than the Dane, Anders Hansen.
It keeps Molinari on course to emulate the victory two years ago by his brother, Edoardo, and would be only the second time in European Tour history that brothers have lifted the same title.
Spaniards German and Antonio Garrido won the Madrid Open in 1973 and 1977, respectively.
Scot Marc Warren and Dane Soren Kjeldsen are a joint third, only two back. Playing together, they both shot 64 and now lead the battle for the one British Open spot up for grabs at the tournament.
Molinari said he has been receiving text messages of support from Edoardo, who two weeks ago had wrist surgery.
"He said he'll be watching," the 29 year old stated. "He's probably a bit bored - he has not started rehab yet and is just resting."
Swede Alexander Noren, who was tied with Molinari for the lead after Friday, was undone by a triple-bogey on 12 and finished with a 70 on Saturday.
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