Rory McIlroy bounced back from a slow start to trail Matt Fitzpatrick by a shot in the DS Automobiles Italian Open in Rome.
S Open champion Fitzpatrick raced into the solo lead on five-under par with three holes to go when play was suspended due to fading light.
McIlroy recovered from a one-over par front nine by racing home in 30 for a four-under 67 that left him in an eight-way tie for second.
The world No 2 holed out from 115 yards for an eagle two at the third (his 12th) before picking up further shots at the fifth, eighth and ninth at 2023 Ryder Cup venue, the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.
Blaming his slow start on a late dinner with Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald and likely team-mates, he joked: “I felt like I was still half-asleep playing that front nine. I think that eagle obviously ignited something and sort of kick-started my round a little bit. I played some really good golf on the way in.”
Jonathan Caldwell was tied 24th after a one-under 70 but Cormac Sharvin shot 73, Paul Dunne a 74 and Niall Kearney a 75 to leave them outside the projected cut line.
McIlroy finished tied second in the BMW PGA on Sunday behind close friend Shane Lowry who believes the “disgusting” amounts of money on offer in professional golf risks alienating fans. Insisting he “never contemplated” joining LIV Golf, Lowry told the No Laying Up podcast he was “well looked after” for signing a three-year deal to play the Saudi International, but insists he was never tempted by LIV.
“We are very lucky the corporate world loves golf and that’s why we have such great sponsors and that’s why we play for a lot of money, but I do feel like this is causing a division in the game and it’s going to p*** people off,” Lowry said.
“People are going to stop watching it. I think the amounts of money that are being thrown around are absolutely disgusting at the minute. I feel all people talk about is money now.”
He added: “The general Joe Soap, the guy who works his nuts off to make 50 grand a year and has to struggle to pay his membership at his golf club and loves the game so much, this has probably p****** him off more than anyone and I think that’s the wrong thing to do.”
In the Open de Portugal, Conor Purcell was tied 16th at Royal Óbidos after a two-under 70, three shots behind Irish Challenge winner Todd Clements as Gavin Moynihan shot 71, Ruaidhri McGee 73, Tom McKibbin and Gary Hurley a pair of 74s and John Murphy 75.
At the First Stage of the DP World Tour Q-School, Gary McGrane is six-over after a third-round 72 at Arlandastad in Sweden, four shots outside the top 17 and ties who qualify with amateur Richard Knightly two shots further back after a 74.
Former footballer Stephen Grant shot 75 and Robin Dawson a level-par 72 at Haugschlag in Austria to share 20th on level-par at halfway, two shots outside the top 12 and ties.
Meanwhile, Hugh Foley and Matthew McClean kept their Masters dreams alive when they made last night’s quarter-finals of the US Mid-Amateur Championship at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
Italian Open, 12.30pm
Fortinet Championship, 5.30pm
LPGA Portland Classic, 8.0pm
(All live Sky Sports)