The 56-year-old carded a seven-under-par 65 on Friday in Atzenbrugg, his lowest score since the 2018 Italian Open, to take a two-shot lead into the weekend over a chasing group including overnight leader Joost Luiten.
Jimenez birdied three of his opening four holes and three of the final four on the front nine after dropping a shot at the par-four fifth.
Further gains followed on the 10th, 11th and 13th holes, and the frustration of back-to-back bogeys was eased when he gained a further stroke on the par-three 18th with a superb approach.
After spending a four-month break in the Dominican Republic while the coronavirus pandemic kept the Tour on hold, Jimenez was delighted to be back and on form as he targets a title that would see him break his own record as the oldest winner in European Tour history.
“I’m playing very well,” he said on Friday. “It feels great. Four months without competing, it’s nice getting back into a tournament and feeling the tension again. I’m hitting it well and making some putts, not too many bogeys – that’s the key. I enjoyed myself. My irons were working very well.
“I was excited to get back. I miss the competition. I can’t remember the last time I had a four-month holiday.”
Luiten went to nine under for the tournament to claim a share of second with Marc Warren, Craig Howie, Renato Paratore and Nicolai Von Dellingshausen.
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