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Saturday, 17 March 2001
Massimo Florioli will be looking to follow in the recent footsteps of Costantino Rocca and Massimo Scarpa as an Italian winner on The European Tour as he takes a two shot lead into the final round of the Madeira Island Open.

On another calm day on the mountainous Santo de Serra course, Florioli tore through the field with a run of six birdies in the space of seven holes to reach the turn in just 30 strokes, his lowest nine-hole score on The European Tour. The 29 year old picked up another birdie on the 11th but despite hitting every green in regulation on the back nine could not add to his tally. Nevertheless his 65, seven under par, took him to 15 under par and two clear of the English duo of David Lynn and John Bickerton.

Florioli has twice finished second on the European Tour and briefly led the English Open with 16 holes to go in 1998 before Darren Clarke moved ahead to claim the title. But last season he lost his Tour card, finishing 132nd in the Volvo Order of Merit after suffering a loss of confidence. Having worked on his swing and mental approach, he is now ready for a return.

“I had a lot of chances on the back nine but left the putts short. Played very well on the second nine but kept having downhill putts. I played well and put the ball close to the hole. Played consistent.

“Now I’ll try to be the third to win. I have a chance tomorrow so will try my best.”

Lynn similarly made his move by coming home in 30 with six birdies in the first seven holes of the back nine. The 27 year old, chasing his maiden title shot a best of the day 64 to move to 13 under par.

“I missed couple of putts today,” said Lynn. “Had a couple of three putts early on. Three putted the third from 25 foot for par and the eighth from 25 foot. I didn’t hole many long putts. Mostly ten or 12 footers. But that is my lowest round on tour.

“I’d love to go out and play the same as I did today. Don’t think I missed a shot out there tee to green.”

Bickerton is also aiming to break his duck and put himself back in the frame for his first title with two late birdies. An early missed putt from two feet knocked his confidence and despite hitting the ball close on numerous occasions was not able to fully capitalise on his strong iron play. His three under par 69 however left him just two off the pace.

“I played all right, but missed a short putt early on on the second hole for par,” he said. “It was only two feet. Then I got a little edgy and wasn’t getting the ball up to the hole. They are all right for pars but when you have a ten foot birdie and keep lagging it to the hole it is not much fun.

“Just get out there and try your best, hope it comes all right and see what comes of it. There are a lot of guys in a good position. Quite a few on 11 or 12 under and it is sometimes easier when you are in that position chasing the lead.”

Four players share fourth spot on 12 under par including the defending champion Niclas Fasth who recovered from a disasterous start when he dropped four strokes in the first four holes to finsih with a level par 72. Also on 12 under is Ireland’s Des Smyth, England’s Stephen Dodd and Craig Hainline of America.

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