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Fitzpatrick setting pace but G-Mac stays in hunt

 

Looking up: Graeme McDowell is among chasing pack
Looking up: Graeme McDowell is among chasing pack

By Robert Jones

A self-diagnosed in-round adjustment paid major dividends for Matt Fitzpatrick as he claimed the halfway lead in the £5.5m Italian Open.

Fitzpatrick added a second round of 65 to his opening 67 to finish 10 under par, a shot ahead of Denmark's Joachim B Hansen, with Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Andrew Johnston, Rory Sabbatini and Shubhankar Sharma all on seven under.

Two-time tournament winner Ian Poulter, who chose not to defend his Houston Open title this week in order to play in Rome, joined Open champion Shane Lowry and home favourite Francesco Molinari in missing the halfway cut.

Fitzpatrick has won at least once a season on the European Tour since claiming his maiden title in 2015, but has had to settle for three runners-up finishes so far in 2019.

"When you're in these kind of positions it's always exciting," said the 25-year-old from Sheffield, who finished second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, BMW International Open and Scandinavian Invitation.

"That's why you play the game and I look forward to the weekend. I figured out something with my irons after the second hole. Just needed to get a little bit more loft on it going back, something I've been working on since Wentworth.

"I felt much more comfortable with my irons once I was out there and that certainly showed. I only missed one green after that."

Rose had looked set to be closer to the lead as he reached nine under par with two holes to play, only to run up a double-bogey six on the eighth and fail to birdie the par-five ninth.

"Overall a 69 keeps me moving forward," the world number five said. "This golf course is no given by any means. There are birdie opportunities out there, but whenever I made a mistake I feel like it was a big mistake.

"On 11, my second hole, I holed a 10-foot putt for bogey, on the third I had to get up and down for bogey and eventually I made the double on eight.

"I was kind of threatening to make double all day."

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