Italy’s Guidonia Montecello region — Even the wind couldn’t stop Matt Fitzpatrick from winning the Italian Open, where he was defending his title from the U.S. Open.
Despite playing in difficult conditions on Saturday, Fitzpatrick managed to shoot an impressive two-under-par 69 and pull ahead of Rory McIlroy and Aaron Rai to take the lead heading into the final round of the tournament. He will be looking to improve on his performance from three years ago and win the tournament for the first time.
This will be the eighth time that Fitzpatrick competes in the Italian Open. He won his maiden major win back in June at the Brookline Championship. In 2019, he finished in second place.
Fitzpatrick stated that “to win would mean everything in the world.”
After making three birdies in the back nine, he moved to 10-under 203 and took the lead by one stroke heading into the final round of competition at the Marco Simone club outside of Rome.
“We had the wind switch on nine, and the golf course just completely changed,” Fitzpatrick said. “We were unable to continue the round.” We had not competed in such a windy environment all week. I had the impression that all I needed to do to place myself in a favorable position was to keep going and stay away from the trouble spots. I was able to make a couple of birdies on the back nine of the course. I couldn’t be happier to go into tomorrow holding the lead.”
The leader at the halfway point, McIlroy, started the day one shot ahead of his Ryder Cup partner, Fitzpatrick. However, McIlroy struggled in the wind and made three bogeys on the day. In spite of this, he was able to save his round and maybe even his tournament by finishing with a birdie, which was his third of the day.
“I struggled with the putting all day, but I think, especially as the wind got up, I struggled just to sort of commit to reads, and do I play the wind, do I not play the wind?” McIlroy said. “I struggled with the putter because I didn’t know whether or not I should play the wind.”
“It’s somewhat of a blessing in disguise that I’m still in it. There has just been one shot back thus far. I believe that tomorrow will find me competing in the final group. Therefore, there was a significant putt on hole 18, and now I can keep an eye on Fitz and what he is doing.”
Matt Fitzpatrick – Italian Open
McIlroy is playing in Italy for the first time as a professional for the explicit purpose of becoming more familiar with the course that will host the Ryder Cup in the following year.
During this time, two eagles helped Rai move up the leaderboard with a score of 65, which was perfect. At the beginning of the round, he was six strokes behind the leader.
Golfers Kurt Kitayama of the United States (67), Victor Perez of France (69), and Lucas Herbert of Australia (68) were tied for fourth place with a score of 8 under par.
However, there was more suffering in store for the captain of Europe, Luke Donald.
After hitting the incorrect ball during his round the previous day, Donald scored seven bogeys on his way to a score of 5-over-par 76, which put him ten strokes down of the leader.
The Ryder Cup is set to return to mainland Europe for the first time since 1997, when it was staged at Valderrama in Spain and Le Golf National in France. In 2019, Marco Simone will become the third course on the continent to play home to the competition (2018).
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