McIlroy and Fitzpatrick are 1-2 on the course for next year’s Ryder Cup
Europe captain Luke Donald, meanwhile, made a rookie mistake after kicking into Marco Simone’s club tough outside Roma and then hitting the wrong ball, earning him a penalty of two shots.
McIlroy (66) produced an eagle for the second straight day and Fitzpatrick (69) birdied five straight in the second round on Friday as they held 1-2 respectively, near the midpoint of the Open. Italy. The round was suspended due to darkness for the second consecutive day.
McIlroy – playing in Italy for the first time as a pro specifically to familiarize himself with the Ryder Cup course – was 9 under 133 overall with Fitzpatrick one stroke behind.
After McIlroy took a share of the club’s lead overnight with an opening 67 before the game was cut short Thursday, Fitzpatrick finished strong early Friday to take the lead after the first round with a 65.
Later in the day it was McIlroy who took the lead as he sank an eagle putt on the par-5 12th and celebrated with a slight wave – contrary to his arm-over-head reaction when he made a successful approach shot for an eagle on the par-4 thirds a day earlier.
Fitzpatrick, who won his first major title at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, in June, also finished tied for fifth at this year’s PGA Championship. The 28-year-old is a veteran of the European Tour and this is his seventh time at the Italian Open, having finished second in 2019.
“I love Italy,” said Fitzpatrick, adding that he is a big football fan. “I came in December to watch Roma.”
Donald struggled with a triple bogey on the par-4 driveable 16th when he hit his tee shot in the rough and then played the wrong ball.
“A first for me” Donald wrote on Twitter. “Bad drive in deep rough, spotter goes straight to the ball, plays the shot and then realizes I played the wrong ball. Same red Titleist 4, but not my markings on the ball.
Donald, however, recovered by birdying five of the next eight holes to finish contention at 5 under.
Afterwards, Donald suggested the rough would be “quite high” for the 2023 Ryder Cup – when Marco Simone becomes the third venue in continental Europe to host golf’s biggest team event after Valderrama in Spain (1997) and Le Golf National in France (2018).
“We want to emphasize hitting the fairways,” Donald said. “The rough here is a different type of grass. It’s kind of a thick blade, so it doesn’t have to be too heavy to make it hard. … Obviously we want to play under similar conditions to what we have been playing this year.
Defending champion Nicolai Højgaard (70) also remained in contention at 5 under, with 10th-ranked Viktor Hovland (68) one stroke further. Tom Lewis was third at 7 under and Victor Perez was fourth at 6 under.
Hometown player Filippo Celli continued to impress on his professional debut after a stellar amateur career, scoring an eagle with a corner shot on the No.12 to finish 1 under and make the cut.
Julien Quesne made a hole in one on fourth from 187 yards.
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