Graeme McDowell moves into contention after 66 in Rome

Northern Irish golfer three shots behind leader Matt Fitzpatrick at Italian Open

Graeme McDowell moved into contention at the Italian Open in Rome on Friday after a a five-under 66 moved him to seven under and within striking distance of leader Matthew Fitzpatrick.

The 40-year-old former US Open champion carded five birdies and an eagle three on the 17th hole at Olgiata Golf Club to move into a five-way tie for third position alongside England's Justin Rose and Andrew Johnston, India's Shubhankar Sharma and Slovakia's Rory Sabbatini.

A self-diagnosed in-round adjustment paid major dividends for Fitzpatrick as he added a second round of 65 to his opening 67 to finish 10 under par, a shot ahead of Denmark's Joachim B Hansen.

Two-time tournament winner Ian Poulter, who chose not to defend his Houston Open title this week in order to play in Rome, joined British Open champion Shane Lowry and home favourite Francesco Molinari in missing the halfway cut. Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington and Paul Dunne will also miss the weekend action.

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, really.

“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 be much 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 today, 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. I think that’s the only thing. When I make a mistake, it’s just too big a mistake at the moment.”

Sabbatini was born in South Africa but now represents Slovakia, the home country of his wife and stepson, making him eligible to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup.

Harrington is monitoring Sabbatini’s form but, speaking after a round of 70, the 43-year-old joked: “I think the only reason Pádraig is looking at me is because I’m the only one that’s close to his age.

“Obviously there’s potential and I have a chance, but I’d say between now and then I’ve got a lot of good golf that needs to be played.

“My game is finally turning around. I’m back to full strength and full health. I’m starting to get comfortable out on the golf course again, so I’m giving myself opportunities and putting myself in the mix more and more frequently.

“Obviously that breeds confidence and confidence is key in golf.”

Harrington carded a two-under 69 to finish on one over, one shot above the cut mark. Lowry also finished on one over after a level-par 71, while Paul Dunne’s six-over 77 left him on five over.

LEADERBOARD
British and Irish unless stated, (a) denotes amateurs, par 71:

132 Matthew Fitzpatrick 67 65

133 Joachim B. Hansen (Den) 67 66

135 Andrew Johnston 67 68, Shubhankar Sharma (Ind) 66 69, Rory Sabbatini (Svk) 65 70, Graeme McDowell 69 66, Justin Rose 66 69

136 Kurt Kitayama (USA) 66 70, Matt Wallace 69 67, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 71 65, Julien Guerrier (Fra) 69 67, Mikko Korhonen (Fin) 69 67, Aaron Rai 69 67, Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin) 64 72, Andrea Pavan (Ita) 69 67, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa) 68 68, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 66 70

137 Paul Waring 70 67, Tyrrell Hatton 68 69, Matthias Schwab (Aut) 68 69

138 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 68 70, Adri Arnaus (Esp) 70 68, Danny Willett 68 70, Joost Luiten (Ned) 66 72, Robert Macintyre 69 69, Guido Migliozzi (Esp) 72 66, Adrian Otaegui (Esp) 68 70

139 Marcus Kinhult (Swe) 72 67, Ross Fisher 68 71, Kalle Samooja (Fin) 70 69, David Horsey 69 70, Chris Paisley 68 71, Francesco Laporta (Ita) 69 70, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 69 70, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 74 65, Julian Suri (USA) 70 69, Sam Horsfield 68 71, Jordan Smith 69 70

140 Ashun Wu (Chn) 70 70, Nacho Elvira (Esp) 72 68, Alexander Levy (Fra) 69 71, Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 70 70, James Morrison 72 68

141 Justin Harding (Rsa) 72 69, Ryan Fox (Nzl) 70 71, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 72 69, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Esp) 72 69, Oliver Fisher 71 70, Renato Paratore (Ita) 71 70, Jason Scrivener (Aus) 71 70, Stephen Gallacher 70 71, Jeunghun Wang (Kor) 72 69, Justin Walters (Rsa) 70 71, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 71 70, Richard Sterne (Rsa) 72 69, Nino Bertasio (Ita) 72 69, Lee Westwood 69 72

142 SSP Chawrasia (Ind) 74 68, Alex Noren (Swe) 72 70, Joakim Lagergren (Swe) 71 71, Ashley Chesters 71 71, George Coetzee (Rsa) 69 73, Jacques Kruyswijk (Rsa) 70 72, Dean Burmester (Rsa) 70 72, Sebastian Soderberg (Swe) 74 68, David Lipsky (USA) 72 70, Victor Perez (Fra) 74 68, Eddie Pepperell 70 72, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 71 71

MISSED CUT

143 Richie Ramsay 71 72, Matthieu Pavon (Fra) 72 71, Jack Singh Brar 71 72, Brandon Stone (Rsa) 70 73, Stuart Manley 75 68, Romain Langasque (Fra) 70 73, Lee Slattery 71 72, Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) 73 70, Alvaro Quiros (Esp) 71 72, Haotong Li (Chn) 73 70, Shane Lowry 72 71, Ian Poulter 72 71, Thomas Detry (Bel) 71 72, Pádraig Harrington 74 69

144 Thomas Aiken (Rsa) 74 70, Alexander Bjork (Swe) 75 69, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 72 72, Robert Karlsson (Swe) 75 69, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 69 75, Trevor Immelman (Rsa) 74 70, Jamie Donaldson 72 72, Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry) 73 71, Luke Donald 70 74, Bradley Dredge 72 72

145 Ricardo Gouveia (Por) 73 72, David Drysdale 75 70, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger) 75 70, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 72 73, Matthew Southgate 70 75, Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn) 73 72

146 Steven Brown 74 72, Andrew Sullivan 75 71, Jeff Winther (Den) 71 75, Jaco Van Zyl (Rsa) 75 71, Darren Fichardt (Rsa) 75 71, Gavin Green (Mal) 71 75, Enrico Di Nitto (Ita) 73 73

147 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 71 76, Paul Dunne 70 77, Paul Casey 71 76, Grant Forrest 70 77, Benjamin Hebert (Fra) 70 77, Scott Jamieson 76 71

148 (a) Lorenzo Scalise (Ita) 72 76, Romain Wattel (Fra) 77 71, Pedro Figueiredo (Por) 73 75, Jens Dantorp (Swe) 76 72

149 Andres Romero (Arg) 72 77, Jorge Campillo (Esp) 72 77, Matteo Manassero (Ita) 71 78, Sam Brazel (Aus) 77 72

150 Robert Rock 75 75, Haydn Porteous (Rsa) 74 76, Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) 74 76, Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) 76 74

151 Liam Johnston 76 75, Chris Wood 76 75, Lorenzo Gagli (Ita) 73 78

152 David Law 77 75

153 (a) Edoardo Raffaele Lipparelli (Ita) 85 68, Michael Campbell (Nzl) 76 77

154 Thomas Bjorn (Den) 76 78

156 Scott Hend (Aus) 82 74

157 Filippo Bergamaschi (Ita) 77 80

161 Jose-Maria Olazabal (Esp) 80 81, Kim Koivu (Fin) 83 78