Rock on track to first title

Robert Rock was still on track to his first European Tour title after tightening his grip on the lead at the Italian Open on Saturday.

Robert Rock was still on track to his first European Tour title after tightening his grip on the lead at the BMW Italian Open on Saturday.

The English journeyman, a runner-up three times in his eight years on tour, carded a solid four-under 68 to double his overnight lead at Royal Park in Turin.

The 34-year-old found himself trailing early third-day pacesetter Niclas Fasth by two strokes after offsetting a birdie at the second with a bogey at four.

But Rock stormed back in front of the field with four birdies in six holes around the turn and could have been further in front had he not missed from eight feet at the last to remain at six under.

Fasth ignited his challenge with an eagle at the eighth followed by five straight birdies, but he gave a shot back at 15 before parring his way home to card a best-of-the-day 64.

The Swede is among six players tied for second including home favourite Francesco Molinari, who returned a six-birdie 68.

But Chris Wood slipped four behind after ruining a run of six birdies in nine holes with a double-bogey at 14 and had to pencil in a disappointing 71.

A change of putting grip recently has transformed Rock’s game

It enabled him to qualify for the US Open and it enabled him to maintain his grip on the top of the Royal Park leaderboard on ‘Moving Saturday’.

He needed only 27 putts in the third round and was over the moon with his performance on the greens, despite missing a closing birdie by three-putting from the fringe on 18.

“The big moments in my career are all coming at once and tomorrow will be the biggest so far in over nine years,” Rock told Reuters.

“If my putting stays the same it will calm me down tomorrow. It does wonders for your confidence when you are holing putts.”

Matteo Manassero (70) will need to come up with something special if the 18-year-old is to clinch his home open 13 months after playing in his very first tournament as a professional at this very event.

Although the teenager made three birdies in his last five holes he trails Rock by four strokes.

“I still think I have a chance of winning here,” said Manassero. “I think 20-under is going to win and if I get a few breaks I have a chance.”

Like Rock, Manassero will make his US Open debut at the Congressional next week where he will be alongside the Molinari brothers Francesco and Edoardo.

“It’s going to be good for us,” he said. “It will help us relax.”