Martin Kaymer's late birdie blitz earns a one-shot lead at Italian Open
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 03/06/18 12:32am
Martin Kaymer produced a late birdie blitz to storm into the halfway lead after a high-quality second day of the Italian Open at Gardagolf.
Kaymer edged ahead of a congested leaderboard with a sparkling run of five consecutive birdies from the 13th, and a cast-iron par at the last capped a best-of-the-day 63 which ensured a one-shot lead on 11 under ahead of a chasing pack featuring five Ryder Cup stars and two major champions.
Danny Willett continued his encouraging form of day one and kept a bogey off his card for the second day running in a 67 which earned the former Masters champion a share of second with Graeme McDowell, Thomas Pieters, Rafa Cabrera Bello and home favourite Francesco Molinari.
But Tyrrell Hatton, who finished bogey, triple-bogey late on Thursday in a 73, was unable to make it through to the weekend after posting a 69 which included six birdies but two costly double-bogeys, finishing three shots outside the cut mark on one under.
Kaymer will enjoy the overnight lead after the German, who has gone almost four years without a victory since the 2014 US Open, cruised to the turn in 32 before his momentum stalled with a run of four pars.
A birdie at the long 13th then ignited his surge up the leaderboard as he backed up his pure ball-striking with a sublime touch on the greens, and his eight-under score was his best round in a European Tour event since the 2015 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
"It has been a while that I played that solid without making a mistake," said Kaymer. "I think I was getting very close recently, but that positivity was missing on the golf course because I haven't had a lot of results. I have been playing well, I just couldn't see a good score.
"I drove it very well today and then a few putts went in on the last five, six holes, and then one of those rounds, they happen. It's really exciting to see myself playing that solid. It was just a matter of putting the right mental attitude on to the golf course. I did very well the last two days."
Cabrera Bello had earlier become the first man in the clubhouse on 10 under after carding a five-birdie 67, and he was soon joined by a rejuvenated McDowell, who returned a bogey-free 66.
Pieters added a 67 to his opening 65, while Molinari and Willett both completed 36 holes without a single dropped shot, with BMW PGA champion Molinari now bogey-free since the second round at Wentworth.
"Two really solid days," said Willett, who has tumbled to 462nd in the world rankings. "I drove the ball great, gave ourselves a lot of opportunities, and having the ball in place makes it a little bit easier. Could have rolled in a couple more in and would be a really nice couple of days.
"We're going to go out there and have a go at it. I haven't made a cut for a while, so to actually be this side of the leaderboard, it's actually pretty nice. Just going to go out there, do the things we've been doing and hit some good golf shots and get in position."
Veteran Englishman Robert Rock could not hit the heights of his day-one 63 as a 70 left the 41-year-old two shots off the pace at the halfway stage, while European No 1 Tommy Fleetwood is among a large group of players on seven under.
Fleetwood's five-birdie 67 was one lower than his first-round score as he closed inside the top-20 alongside English compatriots Ian Poulter, Jordan Smith, David Howell, Andy Sullivan, James Morrison, Laurie Canter and Lee Slattery.
Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick were both disappointed with their rounds of 70 as they safely made the cut on six under, but Hatton was a high-profile casualty along with Ross Fisher, who bogeyed the final three holes to return a 74 and miss the cut by one shot.