Rory McIlroy picks up the pace to claim lead ahead of Matt Fitzpatrick in Rome
Rory McIlroy produced a sprint finish in more ways than one to snatch the halfway lead from Ryder Cup team-mate Matt Fitzpatrick in the DS Automobiles Italian Open.
McIlroy’s group looked unlikely to complete their second rounds after taking three hours to play nine holes, but covered the back nine in two hours and 15 minutes to finish in near-darkness at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.
Former Open champion Francesco Molinari even ran from the 17th green to the 18th tee to ensure the group avoided an early return to the course on Saturday morning, with play suspended just two minutes later.
McIlroy birdied the 16th and 18th to complete an eventful 66 containing an eagle, six birdies and three bogeys, a halfway total of nine under par giving the world number two a one-shot lead over US Open champion Fitzpatrick.
“Probably saved myself about three hours in bed tomorrow after getting done so happy about that and obviously looking forward to the weekend now,” McIlroy said.
“I shortsided myself a couple of times today and was able to play some good shots to get myself out of it and holed the putts afterwards.
“Fitz has had an unbelievable year, (winning) his first major championship and he’s really matured into one of the best players in the world. I’m looking forward to going up against him here over the weekend.”
Fitzpatrick had to complete the final three holes of his first round on Friday following Thursday’s weather delay and made two birdies and one bogey to complete an opening 65.
The world number 11 then started his second round on the back nine and bogeyed the 10th, but followed that with five straight birdies to open up a four-shot lead.
However, Fitzpatrick dropped shots on the 16th and 17th and made his first par of the day on the 18th, before covering the front nine in level par with two birdies and two bogeys for a 69.
“Pretty inconsistent really,” was how Fitzpatrick summed up his day.
“I’ve played some really good stuff, (made) some sloppy mistakes which was obviously disappointing but plenty of birdies, which was always a positive. Going into the weekend in the position I’m in, I’m very happy.”
England’s Tom Lewis and Tyrrell Hatton both shot 65 to lie seven and five under par respectively.
Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, who will lead Europe’s bid to regain the trophy at the same venue next year, is also five under following a 68 which included a two-shot penalty for playing the wrong ball.
Donald was three under par for the day when the incident occurred on his seventh hole of the day, leading to a triple-bogey seven.
“I did something I don’t think I’ve ever done in golf,” the former world number one explained. “I hit the wrong ball on 16 which was frustrating.
“I hit a poor tee shot left in the rough. The spotter kind of went straight to the ball and I just assumed it was mine and mine was a few feet left of it. It was a costly seven.”
Viktor Hovland goes back-to-back in the Bahamas with Hero World Challenge win
The Norwegian held off Scottie Scheffler to win by two shots.
Home favourite Thriston Lawrence survives late scare to win South African Open
The South African beat Clement Sordet by one stroke.
Adrian Meronk wins Australian Open as playing partner Adam Scott misses out
Home favourite Scott held a one-shot lead going into the final round at Victoria GC but Meronk shot 66 to win by five strokes.
Poland’s Adrian Meronk eclipses Adam Scott to win Australian Open
Despite taking the lead into Sunday, Scott was ultimately unable to repel Meronk’s challenge.
Thriston Lawrence and Clement Sordet set for final-day battle at South African Open
Thriston Lawrence leads his playing partner by two shots.
Adam Scott leads Australian Open ahead of Adrian Meronk
Scott moved to 11 under on Saturday, one stroke better than Meronk at the summit.
Adam Scott equals course record to share halfway lead at Australian Open
Scott carded five birdies and an eagle on the 18th at Victoria Golf Club.
Hole-in-one helps Tom McKibbin make strong start in South Africa
The 19-year-old holed out with a five iron from 232 yards on the 11th hole.
A nice birdie-fest – Tiger Woods expecting low scoring Hero World Challenge
Woods withdrew on Monday due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Adam Scott relishing chance to experience a career first at the Australian Open
The tournament sees men, women and golfers with disabilities competing on the same course at the same time.