New Zealand golfer Danny Lee was tied for second after two rounds of the Scottish Open.
At the stunning Castle Stuart golf links in Inverness, Lee topped the leaderboard midway through day two before being hauled in by Swede Alex Noren.
Noren took advantage of relatively calm conditions to fire a six-under-par 66 and claim a one-stroke lead.
The 33-year-old, a four-times winner on the European Tour, birdied five of his last eight holes to cap a bogey-free display and post an eight-under total of 136 at the warmup event for next week's British Open at Royal Troon.
Lee (66) and Englishman Eddie Pepperell (67) were on seven-under, a stroke better than Italy's Matteo Manassero (67), England's Richard Bland (68), South African Branden Grace (67) and Spaniard Jorge Campillo (66).
"I really like this place, it's such a fun course to play," Noren told reporters at Castle Stuart.
"There are a few very tricky holes and then a few holes where you can be a lot more aggressive.
"Some weeks we play courses which are tough from the first hole to the 18th but here it's a really nice mix so I like it a lot."
Triple major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland (69) was on five-under while American Phil Mickelson, a regular visitor to the Scottish Open, followed his opening 76 with a 69 to lie nine strokes off the pace.
Castle Stuart yielded six birdies to Lee on day two, boosting his contribution to flood relief in West Virgina.
"I'm doing a little donation every time I make a birdie or eagle, so I'm very happy that I made a lot of birdies today and hopefully I can put some eagles in there two," said Lee.
After qualifying for next week's Open championship at Royal Troon, the 25-year old from Rotorua decided to practice his links play in Scotland.
That meant not defending his only PGA tour title which he won last year in West Virginia's Greenbrier Classic.
The event has since been cancelled due to flood damage at the Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs.