fast finish | 

Rory McIlroy in the lead as Matthew McClean and Hugh Foley make US Mid-Am final

Rory McIlroy finished with a flourish at the Italian Open. Photo: AP© AP

Brian KeoghIndependent.ie

Rory McIlroy produced a fast finish in every sense to take a one-shot lead over US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick into the weekend at the DS Automobiles Italian Open.

As Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley and Malone’s Matthew McClean headed out for the first 18 holes of the US Mid-Amateur final in Wisconsin to battle for dream starts in next year’s Masters and US Open, McIlroy beat the setting sun in Rome to snatch the halfway lead.

After taking over three hours to play the front nine, he came home in just two hours 15 minutes with former Open champion Francesco Molinari running from the 17th green to the 18th tee to ensure the group avoided an early restart today.

The hooter sounded two minutes later to announce play had been suspended due to fading light but McIlroy had the option to finish the hole and made birdie for a one-shot lead over Fitzpatrick on nine-under.

“Probably saved myself about three hours in bed tomorrow after getting done so happy about that and obviously looking forward to the weekend now,” said McIlroy, who made an eagle, six birdies, and three bogeys in a 66 to Fitzpatrick’s 69.

“Fitz has had an unbelievable year, (winning) his first Major championship and he’s really matured into one of the best players in the world. I’m looking forward to going up against him here over the weekend.”

Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney carded a four-under 67 to sit inside the cut line on level-par as he seeks the points he needs to keep his card. But Paul Dunne shot 72 and Cormac Sharvin a 73 to slip to four-over alongside Jonny Caldwell, who has five holes to complete.

Fitzpatrick will have McIlroy for company in the Masters and the US Open at Los Angeles Country Club next year and either McClean or Foley will be joining them as US Mid-Amateur champion.

Foley (25) beat Minnesota’s Bryce Hanstad 3&2 as McClean (29) beat North Dakota’s Josh Persons by the same margin in the semi-finals at Erin Hills.

“Insane,” said reigning North and South of Ireland champion Foley. “It’s just been unbelievable. Me and Matt have spent every second of the trip together.”

At the AmazingCre Portland Classic, Leona Maguire looked to be heading home early for next week’s KPMG Women’s Irish Open after adding a 73 to her opening 75 to sit near the back of the field on four-over.

Ruaidhri McGee (69) and Conor Purcell (16 holes) were the best of the Irish on two-under, just five shots off the lead in the fog-delayed Open de Portugal while at the First Stage of the DP World Q-School at Arlandastad in Sweden, Gary McGrane (11-over) and amateur Richard Knightly (11-over) closed with 75s to finish outside the two-over qualifying mark.

At Golfresort Haugschlag in Austria, Robin Dawson is just inside the top 12 and ties who progress after a 69 left him tied 11th on three-under heading into today’s final round as Stephen Grant slipped to two-over after a 74.

DS Automobiles Italian Open, 12.30pm Fortinet Championship, 11.0pm LPGA Portland Classic, 8.0pm (All live Sky Sports)


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