Matt Fitzpatrick leads Italian Open
A self-diagnosed in-round adjustment paid major dividends for Matt Fitzpatrick as he claimed the halfway lead in the £5.5million Italian Open.
Fitzpatrick added a second round of 65 to his opening 67 to finish 10 under par, a shot ahead of Denmark's Joachim B Hansen, with Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Andrew Johnston, Rory Sabbatini and Shubhankar Sharma all on seven under.
The Sheffield golfer 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, 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."
Fellow Sheffield golfer Danny Willett endured an up-and-down round and had to make do with a one under par 70 to take him to -4 and a tie for 21st.
Starting on the tenth, Willett carded three bogeys in his front nine before four consecutive birdies got him firmly back on track. He finished with a bogey six on the ninth
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.
Captain Padraig Harrington is monitoring Sabbatini's form but, speaking after a round of 70, the 43-year-old joked: "I think the only reason Padraig 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."
Two-time tournament winner Ian Poulter, who chose not to defend his Houston Open title this week in order to play in Rome, joined Open champion Shane Lowry and home favourite Francesco Molinari in missing the halfway cut.