Sullivan blitzed the Victoria Golf Club for 10 birdies and kept a bogey off his card as he joined overnight-leader Marc Warren at the top of the leaderboard on 14 under par.The defending champion was outside of the top 20 after opening with “only” a 67 but, after Warren had set the early clubhouse target, Sullivan began to reel in the Scot with four birdies in five holes from the second.
A run of three pars effectively took a 59 out of the equation, but Sullivan did give himself a chance with five birdies in six holes after the turn before another par at 16 ended his shot at becoming the first player to break 60 on the European Tour.
The Ryder Cup star added one further birdie at 17, and he narrowly missed out on his seventh three of the back nine at the last as he soaked up the applause of his huge travelling army of supporters.
“I knew I needed to go low today to get close to the leaders, so to go out there and shoot that score is absolutely fantastic,” said Sullivan, who is without a win since lifting the Portugal Masters title at the same venue 12 months ago.
“I had thoughts of 59 coming down the stretch there, but it wasn’t to be. But it’s still fantastic to being on top of the leaderboard and give myself a chance going into the weekend.
“The game has felt good for a long time – the putter’s just been a bit cold. But today I holed a couple of good putts out there to get the momentum going. It only takes a couple of putts to go in, then you start seeing it go in all the time.
“I knew if I could get off to a quick start, I could get my supporters on my side and really use them to build the momentum – and it worked. They were cheering me on the whole way round. Every time they turn up I seem to play well. They’re amazing, and I can’t thank them enough for their support.”
Warren added a 65 to his opening 63 with seven birdies, although he bogeyed the seventh for the second day running, while Padraig Harrington rolled back the years as he surged into a share of third place one behind the leaders.
The three-time major champion began his round with four birdies in five holes, and he added another five after the turn with his only blemish coming at the 12th, where he ran up a disappointing six.
Saturday’s play will start at 11:00 the delay is due to the forecast of heavy rain in the morning that could prevent play.