A closing hole birdie in near darkness handed Rory McIlroy a one-stroke lead on day two of the DS Automobiles Italian Open at Marco Simone Club.
McIlroy was tied for the lead with fellow US Open champ Matt Fitzpatrick on eight-under-par and played his drive down the last at next year’s Ryder Cup host course when the siren sounded for play to be halted due the poor light.
Under Tour rules, players are allowed to complete the hole they’re on and with McIlroy chipping his third shot to just under six-foot, and holing the birdie putt in his round of 66 and finish in front of Fitzpatrick at nine-under, and after Fitzpatrick has signed for a 69 in sunny and far less testing windy conditions of the day prior.
“It was better today, especially on the back nine,” said McIlroy
“I took advantage of some of the easier holes. It was pretty tough the front nine, the wind just sort of kept it nice and steady ,one-under and had a nice finish and probably saved myself from getting done tomorrow. Obviously looking forward to the weekend.
“I still need to tidy up a few areas but overall, a few good par saves which you always need”.
Though for a second day running, it was a slow start for McIlroy before making a charge on his inward nine.
McIlroy was one-over for his round after 10 holes before collecting the third birdie of his round in chipping to four-feet at the short par-4 11th. He then capped his round at the par-5 12th hole sending a 186-yard drive from the semi-rough to 13-foot behind the flag and rolling-in the eagle ‘3’ putt.
The World No. 2 then holed a stunning 34-footer for birdie par-4 14th which moved him into a share of the lead at eight-under.
McIlroy dropped a shot at the next but hit straight back with a six-footer for birdie on 16 ahead of nudging in front on the 18th.
The recently crowned FedEx Cup champion is making his first visit to Italy since capturing the 2006 European Amateur near Turin. Since turning pro in late 2007, he’s won the Hong Kong Open (2011), US Open (2013), Australian Open (2013), the Open Championship (2014), Irish Open (2016) and Canadian Open titles (2019).
McIlroy will now square off alongside U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick on day three.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it as ‘Fitz’ has had an unbelievable year, first major championship and he’s obviously matured into one of the best players in the world.,” said McIlroy.
“Looking forward to going up against him over the weekend”
Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney ended a run of two weekends off posting a welcome return to form 67 and just inside the top-50 at four-under.
Kearney capped his day’s work with four birdies in five holes from the ninth to 13th.
Not so good news for Paul Dunne, signing for scores of 74 and 72 while Cormac Sharvin posted a pair of 73s.
And Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell was five-over for his round through 13 holes when his round ended, and dropping to four-over for the event.