Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano had a one-shot lead going into today's second round of the Qatar Masters after overcoming wind and blowing sand to finish with three successive birdies for a six-under par 66 yesterday.
The Spaniard, who is looking for his sixth European Tour victory, holed several putts of more than 20 feet on his way to nine birdies to go along with three bogeys.
John Daly (67) was a shot behind, followed by KJ Choi (68) and Jason Day (68). Six players, including the 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie, are three shots behind.
"I would have taken level par," Fernandez-Castano said. "We couldn't see the ball landing on the fairways and I just tried to keep it as low as possible. I think I just got lucky and holed some important putts. Putting is the most difficult thing on a windy day."
After Daly had stolen the thunder earlier yesterday by firing a bogey-free 67, Fernandez-Castano overtook the American by grabbing nine birdies in all.
While Daly was almost blemish free as a sandstorm ravaged the course, Fernandez-Castano's game was a mixed bag and the Spaniard must have left the course with a feeling of what could have been if he hadn't had those bogeys.
Daly began steadily with pars on his first two holes before picking up a shot on the next. He then stroked two more birdies before the turn as the wind picked up.
A further two more birdies over the final three holes put the former US PGA Championship and British Open winner in a solid position to launch his bid to become the first American to win the tournament.
"It's one of the best rounds I've ever played in a wind like that," he said. "It was brutal. I'm pretty shocked myself shooting five-under. I've had five and a half weeks off and didn't touch the clubs much, so being the first tournament of the year I am really happy."
Daly added that he felt like wearing a mask on the course. "You really do. It's weird, you just feel like you are eating a lot of sand."
Daly said he was in no mood to practice yesterday after finishing his round before noon. "I don't feel like eating more sand. Hopefully I'll lie down a bit. It's hard to work on your game in conditions like these."
Lawrie, who was among title contention on the final day of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship last week, said: "I've sand in places I didn't know I had places."