Four-under for Kearney as Manassero leads the way in Italy

Ralph Casey

Niall Kearney (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Niall Kearney has rocketed up to 17th place on the leaderboard at the Italian Challenge after a sizzling four under par 68, but Matteo Manassero is the man to catch.

Two shots back is Jonathan Caldwell, who can’t be ruled out of contention either at the halfway stage.

But it’s the former European wonderboy, Manassero, who stole the headlines on Friday.
The Italian is the youngest winner in DP World Tour history and he posted a brilliant seven under par round of 65 to show past form in claiming pole position at the halfway stage of the Italian Challenge Open.


He leads the tournament on -13.

The four-time DP World Tour champion mixed eight birdies with just one bogey to move to 13 under par at Golf Nazionale, two ahead of Englishman Alex Fitzpatrick who posted a six under 66 to move into second place just days after securing a maiden place in The Open through Final Qualifying.

The Italian was pleased to climb to the top of the leaderboard in front of his home crowd and believes his experience of playing under the Italian sun could give him the edge this weekend.
Speaking to the golf media after his round, Manassero said: “It’s been two really good days and I’ve played some great golf,” he said. “Obviously, you don’t know what is to come at the weekend, but my game has been very consistent over the opening two rounds. I hit a lot of good shots to give myself birdie chances and it was nice to hole a few putts.

“It’s important to keep drinking water due to the heat. This is our summer and I’ve experienced it many times so maybe that is giving me an advantage this week. I’m trying to stay focus and keep hydrated.”

Manassero returned to the winner’s circle earlier this year at the Copenhagen Challenge presented by Ejner Hessel and he now has his sights set on promotion back to the DP World Tour.
“I have become a more complete golfer this year,” he said. “I’m putting much better than I did last year. I have found a greater level of consistency and I feel confident each week. I know if I work hard, I can get back to the DP World Tour.

“This is such an important week for me. It’s so special because of the home support and I love playing at this course. It’s important to remember that it is just a week like any other and I need to perform well to keep pushing towards the top of the Rankings.”

Overnight leader Ashley Chesters and Germany’s Marc Hammer share third place on ten under par, while five-time Challenge Tour winner Andrea Pavan and England’s Jonathan Thomson are a shot further back in fifth.

Back-to-back rounds of level par weren’t enough to see Conor Purcell through to the weekend as he missed the cut on the number, with Paul Dunne, Ruaidhri McGee, Jonathan Yates and Dermot McElroy also missing out.


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