Matthieu Pavon remains the man to catch at the halfway stage of the DS Automobiles Italian Open after finishing his second round with a monster birdie putt to take a two-shot lead into the weekend.
The Frenchman began the day two shots clear at the top of the leaderboard after posting his lowest-ever DP World Tour round on Thursday, but found scoring somewhat trickier on Friday despite making a lightning-quick start.
Beginning at the 10th tee, Pavon made a hat-trick of birdies on the 11th, 12th and 13th but carded three bogeys – on the 14th, 17th and 8th – before getting his next birdie at the 9th.
His closing gain was worth the wait, though, as the 30-year-old curled in his 57-foot effort to reach nine under par.
And none of the afternoon starters were able to match Pavon’s midway total, with his countryman Julien Guerrier and Adrian Otaegui his nearest challengers on seven under.
Guerrier made five birdies and three bogeys in his 69, while Otaegui notched an eagle, five birdies and three bogeys as he signed for a 67.
South African Daniel van Tonder is on four under, in a share of eighth position, after a second-round 67 that included six birdies and two bogeys. Countryman Justin Walters is a further two shots behind.
The crowds at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club were treated to two aces on Friday, with South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence winning a brand new DS 4 car at the 7th, and India’s Shubhankar Sharma making a hole-in-one on the par-three 17th. However, Lawrence still missed the weekend cut.
WATCH: Lawrence wins car with hole-in-one
Having started the week with his lowest-ever round on the DP World Tour on Thursday, Pavon maintained that form on Friday morning, holing from 15 feet for a birdie on the 11th before repeating the trick from nine feet at the 12th.
He then sent his tee-shot at the short 13th to five feet and knocked in the putt for a hat-trick of birdies.
That moved Pavon to 11 under, but he gave a shot straight back on the 14th before making another bogey at the 17th.
Eight straight pars followed before Pavon bogeyed the 8th to return to eight under.
But he saved his best for last, finishing his round with an enormous birdie putt to sign for a second-round 70.
“Quite an up and down day,” Pavon said. “I started quite fast, quite good with a lot of good shots when I started.
“Hit it pretty close, made some birdies earlier on and that was great, but then I made some mistakes.
“Nothing really big but when you miss something here it feels like it is really tough to get the up-and-down done, so I dropped a few shots.
“I was a bit tired in the end also after a poor night yesterday, so to finish my round under par today I am really happy.
“I think it is tougher today for sure. The greens are getting firmer, no rain yesterday compared to the first few days when we arrived, so I think everything is tougher.
“The pins also are trickier, so all in all, it’s really hard today.”
– Edited report from DP World Tour website