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Fitzpatrick leads McIlroy

ROME, Italy (AFP) — Matthew Fitzpatrick closed with a birdie in a third-round 69 on Saturday to open up a one-shot lead on Rory McIlroy and Aaron Rai at the Italian Open in Rome.

US Open champion Fitzpatrick bounced back from a front-nine bogey with birdies at the 10th, 12th, and 18th in blustery conditions at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.

World No. 2 McIlroy and Englishman Rai are tied one shot behind Fitzpatrick in second at the venue which will host next year’s Ryder Cup.

Halfway leader McIlroy had a mixed round with three birdies and three bogeys for 71, while Rai took a leap up the leaderboard with two eagles and two birdies in a six-under-par 65.

McIlroy, who like Fitzpatrick will be hoping to represent Team Europe in the 2023 Ryder Cup, faces a tough task on Sunday.

“I know it will be a tough day. Fitz is very solid. These are the sort of conditions that he relishes. He’s going to be tough to beat,” said the player from Northern Ireland.

“Thankfully I’m still in it. Still only one shot back. I’ll be in the final group tomorrow. So that was a big putt on the 18th to hole so I can keep an eye on Fitz and what he’s doing.”

France’s Victor Perez, American Kurt Kitayama and Australian Lucas Herbert were in a three-way tie for fourth on eight under.

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