Italian Open: Matt Fitzpatrick makes four late birdies to maintain lead as Justin Rose slumps
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 13/10/19 5:11pm
Matt Fitzpatrick produced an outstanding finish to his third round to reclaim the outright lead as Justin Rose crashed out of contention at the Italian Open.
Fitzpatrick was one over for the day after 12 holes and found himself three shots behind Kurt Kitayama, but the overnight leader birdied four of the next five holes as he returned a 68 and ensure the overnight lead on 13 under par.
Kitayama's 65 earned him the early clubhouse lead just ahead of the in-form Bob MacIntyre, who continued to impress in his rookie season as he carded a seven-birdie 64, but star draw Rose plummeted 48 places down the leaderboard after a 78 in which he failed to make a single birdie.
MacIntyre recorded the low round of the day, and his second-best of his stellar season, the left-handed Scot cruising to the turn in 33 before posting birdies on the back nine while keeping a bogey off his card to set the early target at 11 under.
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But the rookie, a three-time runner-up this season, had his clubhouse lead taken away by Kitayama, who was also blemish-free in his six-birdie effort, while the final pairing of Fitzpatrick and Joachim B Hansen were both struggling to keep pace.
Fitzpatrick led by one overnight and enjoyed the ideal start when he birdied the first for the third day running, but his chances of a first win of the season were hit by a bogey at the second and he missed chances to get back under the card as he parred the next seven holes.
The 25-year-old, who has at least one European Tour victory in each of the last four seasons, erred again at the 10th, but he got back on track with his second birdie of the round at the 13th which galvanised his spirits.
Well-crafted birdies on the par-five 15th and 17th sandwiched another at the tough 16th, where he holed from 20 feet to draw level with Kitayama, and he came close to his fifth birdie in six holes at the last after gouging a brilliant second from the rough to the heart of the green.
Fitzpatrick's solid par closed out a valiant 68 and leaves him as the man to catch heading into the final day, while Hansen now looks too far back to contend after the Dane dropped three shots over the last five holes as he stumbled to a 74 which dropped him to six under par.
Matt Wallace will look to put early pressure on the leaders on Sunday after he fired a second-straight 67 to jump to 10 under alongside Bernd Wiesberger, who revived his hopes of a third win of the season - and a second Rolex Series title, when he reeled off four consecutive birdies from the 12th and added another at 17 to match the 67 of Wallace.
Fan favourite Andrew "Beef" Johnston birdied two of the last three to salvage a 70 and stay in the hunt on eight under, with Graeme McDowell one further adrift after he offset four birdies with as many bogeys in a frustrating 71.
But an out-of-sorts Rose will have a much earlier tee time than he anticipated after the world No 5 made a series of errors, carding three bogeys in four holes on the front nine and blotting his card again at 14, 15 and 18, slipping from three behind overnight to 13 strokes adrift of Fitzpatrick following a Saturday to forget.