Britain’s Robert Rock is well placed to record his first European Tour win at the Italian Open, the week before he is due to make his US Open debut.
The 34-year-old, in his 10th year on the Tour, fired a four-under-par 68 in the second round on Friday to lead by a stroke at Royal Park on 12-under 132.
Rock led playing partner and fellow Englishman Chris Wood (69) and Dutchman Joost Luiten (67) by one shot.
Italians Matteo Manassero (68), Francesco Molinari (68) and Lorenzo Gagli (66) were a further stroke back on 134, along with Frenchman Gregory Bourdy (68) and Britons Gary Boyd (65) and Rhys Davies (68).
Frenchman Victor Dubuisson carded a best-of-the-week 62 to finish in a group of players on 135.
Rock is looking to better three second-place finishes. One of those was a losing playoff in the 2009 Irish Open to Shane Lowry.
“It would be nice to get the monkey off my back next week, but being realistic to finally win a title this week would be great,” Rock said. “It’s been a long time on the European Tour only getting a very few opportunities to win.”
A dramatic recent improvement in his putting has helped Rock qualify for the US Open and his performance on the greens was again good at Royal Park.
“I just want it to stay with me this week and next,” he added. “I know my long game can stand up to it, but I’ve been worried about the putter.”
While Rock was delighted to be in pole position, Italian teenager Manassero was as gloomy as the thunderstorm which held up play for 80 minutes in the afternoon after missing a series of makeable putts on the drenched greens.
“It’s really annoying being two behind. I left so many shots out there, at least six,” Manassero said.
Rock and Wood had an exciting three-ball with Australian Marcus Fraser, who produced a hole-in-one at the fourth.
“He also just missed out on a car for another hole-in-one at the 15th by about a foot,” Wood said.