Laporta leaps into Abu Dhabi lead

Francesco Laporta produced a blistering finish in a stunning round of 63 to take a one shot lead into the weekend at the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.

Francesco Laporta

Matthew Fitzpatrick had set the early target at nine under on day two of the first Rolex Series event of the 2020 Race to Dubai and as the shadows began to lengthen at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, it looked like he would remain the man to catch.

Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello made four birdies on the back nine to reel the Englishman in but Laporta went two better, finishing with five in a row to get to ten under and leapfrog the duo after the lowest round of the week so far.

Laporta's fellow Italian Renato Paratore was two shots off the lead alongside Spaniard Sergio Garcia and China's Li Haotong.

Laporta claimed his first two professional wins in the space of just three weeks last year on the European Challenge Tour as he regained his playing privileges by winning the Road to Mallorca.

The 29-year-old missed his first two cuts this season in South Africa but after a top ten in the Rolex Series at last year's Italian Open, he is once making his mark on the European Tour.

"I just want to enjoy the weekend," he said.

"I played solid all 18 holes, my putting was solid, my driver, my irons.

"I gave myself a lot of opportunities for birdies and so when I had the opportunities, I took them. Every time I was putting for birdie, I made it. It was a great day."

After gains on the 13th, 15th and 17th, Fitzpatrick made a two putt birdie on the par five 18th to share the lead but he soon had Li for company.

The 24-year-old also took advantage of the 18th after making birdies on the 15th and 17th, and a five foot putt on the par five second meant he led alone.

Fitzpatrick broke a run of seven pars with an up-and-down at the eighth to share the lead before Li found sand off the tee at the par three seventh for his only bogey of the day.

Overnight leader Paratore quickly had a share of top spot at the tenth but bogeys on the 12th and 15th stalled his progress as he turned in 37.

Cabrera Bello bogeyed the seventh but birdied the par five eighth and tenth before holing two huge putts on the 11th and 13th to get within one of the lead.

At that point Laporta was still well back despite birdies on the second, third, ninth and tenth, and it was Paratore who was leading the Italian charge as he made a gain on the first.

Cabrera Bello put an approach to six feet from a bunker on the 14th to join the lead and Paratore joined him with a chip-in on the 17th before giving the shot back on the next, as Laporta made his big move.

After birdies on the 14th and 15th, he put a wonderful approach into the next, holed from 15 feet on the 17th, and a two putt birdie on the par five last had him in the box seat.

Garcia holed from off the green at the fourth and 12th as well as making the most of the eighth and tenth in a 69 that also saw him bogey the seventh.

Spaniard Adri Arnaus joined Fitzpatrick in being bogey free through 36 holes as he got to seven under alongside Americans Patrick Cantlay and Kurt Kitayama, South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen and Englishman Lee Westwood.

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