Rory McIlroy scored a multiple sprint finish to snatch the half-time lead from Ryder Cup teammate Matt Fitzpatrick at the DS Automobiles Italian Open.
McIlroy’s group seemed unlikely to finish their second round after taking three hours to play nine holes, but they completed the back nine in two hours and 15 minutes to finish in near darkness at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club to land.
Former Open champion Francesco Molinari even ran from the 17th green to the 18th tee to ensure the group avoided a premature return to the course on Saturday morning as play was halted just two minutes later.
McIlroy shagged on the 16th and 18th to complete an eventful 66 with an eagle, six birdies and three bogeys, a half total of nine under par, giving the world number two a one-shot lead over the US Open champion Fitzpatrick provided.
“I’ve probably saved myself about three hours in bed tomorrow, having been so happy about it and obviously looking forward to the weekend now,” McIlroy said.
“I shortsided a few times today and was able to play some good shots to get out and then holed the putts.
“Fitz had an incredible year (winning) his first major championship and he has truly matured into one of the best players in the world. I’m looking forward to playing against him here at the weekend.”
Fitzpatrick was forced to finish the last three holes of his first round on Friday after Thursday’s weather delay, making two birdies and a bogey to complete an opening 65.
The world No. 11 then started his second round on the back nine and bogeyed the 10th but followed with five straight birdies to open a four-stroke lead.
However, Fitzpatrick dropped his shots on the 16th and 17th and made his first par of the day on the 18th before covering the front nine with two birdies and two bogeys for a 69 in level par.
“Pretty inconsistent, actually,” Fitzpatrick summarized his day.
“I played some really good stuff, (made) some sloppy mistakes, which of course was disappointing, but a lot of birdies, which was always a positive. I’m very happy going into the weekend in the position I’m in.”
England’s Tom Lewis and Tyrrell Hatton both shot 65, seven and five under par respectively.
Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, who will lead Europe’s bid to reclaim the cup at the same spot next year, is also five down after a 68 that included a two-shot penalty for playing the wrong ball.
Donald was under par on day three when the incident occurred on his seventh hole of the day, resulting in a triple bogey seven.
“I’ve done something that I don’t think I’ve ever done in golf,” said the former world number one. “I hit the wrong ball when I was 16, which was frustrating.
“I hit a bad shot on the left in the rough. The spotter kind of went straight for the ball and I just assumed it was mine and mine was a few yards away. It was a costly seven.”