Saturday 16 December 2017

Ireland's Simon Thornton shares Italian Open lead

Simon Thornton
Simon Thornton

Phil Casey

Turin native Francesco Molinari delighted the crowds that turned out to watch him on his home course by claiming a share of the halfway lead in the Italian Open.

Molinari, whose halved match with Tiger Woods ensured Europe won the Ryder Cup outright in the 'Miracle at Medinah', carded a second round of 67 at Golf Club Torino to join Chile's Felipe Aguilar and Ireland's Simon Thornton on nine under par.

The 30-year-old has been the centre of attention all week as he bids to claim his national open for the second time, but said: "It adds a little bit of pressure but it's good, it gives you an extra motivation to do well and get focused for 18 holes.

"I said at the beginning of the week I didn't want to think of anything but try to enjoy the week, try to make some birdies and I'll try to do the same Saturday and Sunday.

"It doesn't really matter that I won before, this is a special, special week for me. I was emotional yesterday on the 10th tee at 8am with only 50 people watching so now with all these people on my course it's a great feeling.

"It has been brilliant so far so let's hope it continues to stay that way over the weekend. You have to embrace it, have fun; I smile on the course when I see people I know and I know they are rooting for me so I just try to enjoy it."

Ryder Cup team-mate Nicolas Colsaerts had looked set to at least maintain his overnight share of the lead but bogeyed the 16th and 18th - where he duffed a chip - to return a 71 to lie eight under alongside Ireland's David Higgins and England's Steve Webster

"It's always tough to follow a day of prime striking," said Colsaerts, who shot 65 on Thursday. "I missed only one green yesterday and everything was going my way pretty much.

"Then I started with a bogey today with a seven iron in my hand so that doesn't really get you in the greatest of moods."

Higgins has just one top-three finish to his credit in more than 200 European Tour events but added a 69 to his opening 67 and feels the course suits his game.

The world number 684 said: "I didn't hit it as close as yesterday but if you keep hitting the fairways on this course you can manage it and get a lot of opportunities and I am good at doing that.

"This is a good course for me, if I play well I have a good chance. A lot of the other courses are very long and I am trying to hit it over corners, but this one is about hitting it down the middle all day long and I'm good at that."

Former Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal, whose last European Tour win came in the Mallorca Classic eight years ago, is four off the lead on five under after adding a 68 to his opening 71 to lie five under par.

The 47-year-old said: "Yesterday was a battling day, I didn't hit the ball well at all and just managed to get my way in with a decent score. Today I hit the ball a little better. I still made a few mistakes but it was a better day."

Two-time US Open winner Retief Goosen is two under on his return to action following a four-month injury lay-off with a stress fracture to his back, but former Open champion David Duval missed the halfway cut by two despite improving by five shots on his opening 75.

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