Rome — Five-time European Tour winner Matthew Fitzpatrick took a one-stroke lead after the second round of the Italian Open on Friday, while local favorite Francesco Molinari missed the cut.
Fitzpatrick, an Englishman, moved to 10-under par with seven birdies and one bogey for a round of 65 at Olgiata Country Club.
“Been a little while — Germany, which was back in June, last time I was challenging. When you’re in these kind of positions, it’s always exciting,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s why you play the game, and look forward to the weekend.”
Fitzpatrick is sixth in the Race to Dubai rankings and is looking to regain his spot in Europe’s Ryder Cup team after missing out on the competition last year.
Joachim Hansen of Denmark moved into second at 9 under with a 66 as he looks to improve on his fourth-place finish in last weekend’s Spanish Open.
Former U.S. Open winners Justin Rose (69) and Graeme McDowell (66) were tied with three other players — Shubhankar Sharma (69), Rory Sabbatini (70) and Andrew Johnston (68) — for third at 7 under.
Molinari, the tournament’s poster boy, struggled to a 76 and missed the cut by five strokes. Molinari was playing in his home country for the first time since winning last year’s British Open and leading Europe to the Ryder Cup trophy with a 5-0 record.
“It’s something I’ve got to accept and I’m ready to move on,” Molinari said. “I’m just sorry this has happened here — at the Italian Open. My level of play was mediocre at best. Nothing was working.”
Also missing the weekend was Ian Poulter, a two-time Italian Open champion like Molinari and the winner at Olgiata way back in 2002 when the tournament was last held in Rome. Poulter (71) and British Open champion Shane Lowry (71) each missed the cut by one stroke.
Italian fans can now put their support behind Andrea Pavan (67), who grew up playing at Olgiata, and is in contention at 6 under; and Guido Migliozzi (66), who is at 4-under.
With a $7 million purse in the Rolex Series, the Italian Open is back in Rome after 17 years as the local federation attempts to boost interest ahead of the 2022 Ryder Cup at the nearby Marco Simone club.
In Humble, Texas, expectant father Peter Malnati started strong and shot 7-under 65 to lead at the Houston Open after morning rain and lightning prevented the second round from being completed.
First-round co-leader Austin Cook, who opened with an 8-under 64, briefly got to 11-under before dropping all the way to 6-under through 15 holes before play was suspended due to darkness at 7 p.m. Talor Gooch, who started the day tied with Cook, improved to 9-under through 14 holes and is a shot behind Malnati’s lead.
Malnati, who managed a first-round 69 after missing the cut in his last two tournaments, teed off early in what he called “summertime” conditions, humid and dead calm before bad weather suspended play for over two hours. He took advantage with three birdies and an eagle. A couple of underwhelming wedge shots may have cost him back-nine birdies.
Only four of the top 10 players on the leaderboard have completed 36 holes. Sepp Straka is in at 8-under, and Carlos Ortiz and Mark Hubbard are 7-under. Straka is tied with Nick Watney (14 holes) and Lanto Griffin (13).
Ryan Brehm (Michigan State/Midland) fired another 72 and is at even par.
In Cary, North Carolina, Doug Barron lost his great start with three bogeys over his last four holes and had to settle for a 6-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead over Woody Austin after the opening round in the SAS Championship.
This is the last regular-season event on the PGA Tour Champions before the top 72 players advance to the Charles Schwab Cup playoffs.
Barron started his round on No. 10 and 30 on the back nine of Prestonwood Golf Club. He reached 9 under through 14 holes until his three bogeys at the end.
Jerry Kelly, No. 2 in the Schwab Cup behind Scott McCarron, opened with a 68 along with Vijay Singh and Tim Petrovic. McCarron, assured of being atop the Schwab Cup standings going into the postseason, shot 73.
Lake Orion's Tom Gillis opened with a 76.