Graeme McDowell surged into contention for his second Italian Open win with a super 66 on a disappointing day for Shane Lowry, Pádraig Harrington and Paul Dunne in Rome.
A five-under 66 left the Portrush man tied for third on-seven under with Justin Rose, Andrew Johnston, Shubhankar Sharma and South African born Rory Sabbatini (43) as Lowry, Harrington and Dunne missed the cut. Scores
Italian Open champion in 2004, McDowell (40) made four birdies in his first 10 holes, then rebounded from two bogeys in next three with a birdie two at the 14th and a stunning 248-yard five wood to 12 feet that set up an eagle three at the 17th.
The former US Open winner is just three strokes behind England's Matthew Fitzpatrick, who shot 65 to lead by a shot from Denmark's Joachim B Hansen.
"It's a fun golf course to play," said McDowell, who hopes to challenge for at least one more Ryder Cup appearance. "I think it plays into sort of my type of game.
"You've got to grind it around a little bit, and looking forward to being in contention this weekend."
Lowry was in trouble after a double-bogey six at the third, and while he got back to level for the day with three holes to play, he couldn't pick up the birdie he needed to continue his pursuit of Jon Rahm in the Race to Dubai.
His level-par 71 left him a shot outside the cut line alongside Harrington, who shot 69.
But it was another trying week for Dunne who struggled to find fairways and made eight bogeys in a 77 to miss his 12th cut of the season by five shots and now faces an anxious fortnight.
The Greystones man, who has caddie Dave McNeilly (ex Padraig Harrington and Matt Wallace) on his bag for a three-week run in Europe, understood he had likely accumulated enough Race to Dubai points to keep his card when players were handed projections by the European Tour a few weeks ago.
But he may now need to make a cut in France or Portugal over the next fortnight to avoid any unpleasant surprises. He’s projected to fall to 119th in the Race to Dubai and while the number of cards will be extended beyond 110th as non-exempt players are removed from the Race, 119th would be outside the Pale.
The missed cut was a blow to Lowry’s chances of catching Rahm in the Race to Dubai this week and also a reverse for Harrington (and Dunne) as they bid to make the field for the Turkish Airlines Open next month.
Peter Malnati set the early pace on 10-under in the weather-delayed Houston Open where West Waterford's Seamus Power followed his opening 67 with a rollercoaster 76 to sit just inside the cut mark.
Tied for seventh overnight, he had three double bogeys in three-over front nine and after getting back to three-under with a birdie at the 15th, he bogeyed the 16th and 17th and had to scramble for par at the last.
With 19 groups still to finish today, Power was tied for 44th and a shot inside the projected level par cut mark.
Just 65 and ties make the cut on the PGA Tour this year, bringing the US circuit in line with the European Tour.