Francesco Molinari will go hunting the first home win at the Telecom Italia Open since 1980 after taking a share of the third round lead with England’s Benn Barham, both players carding third rounds of 67 to post matching aggregate totals of 16 under par 200 at the Castillo de Tolcinasco Golf and Country Club.
Englishman Phillip Archer is just one off the lead in third place, with Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, Søren Kjeldsen of Denmark and the Frenchman Benoit Teilleria a further stroke back on 14 under par.
Five birdies in a bogey free round, played in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd gave Molinari hope that he could repeat Massimo Mannelli's victory 26 years ago.
“The crowd made a little difference,” said Molinari, whose brother, Edoardo, is the current US Amateur Champion. “I am happy to be here and have the support of the crowd. Hopefully we can do it tomorrow. On the first few holes I was quite nervous today but then I calmed down and was quite happy.
“The I became a little frustrated by making ten pars in a row and was wondering when the birdies would come because I missed five or six chances but had to stay patient and keep calm. It was important to make the birdie on the 12th because if I had kept making pars then I may have dropped a shot eventually so it was good to make the birdie and start a run.
“I think it would be great for Italy and for my family. My brother has not played so well this week but I am sure that he will join me on Tour next season.”
Barham will be doing everything in his power to spoil the Italians party. The Englishman played some great stuff en route to his own 67, culminating in a 35 foot birdie putt at the last that was never in doubt from the moment the face of his putter made contact with the ball.
That ensured he would join Molinari in a tie for the lead, and he hopes to close out his maiden European Tour win, having recorded a victory at the European Challenge Tour’s Open Mahou de Madrid last season.
That victory helped Barham to seventh place on the Challenge Tour Rankings and guaranteed his place on The European Tour this season as one of the top 20 Challenge Tour players of 2005.
Barham insist he will not be fazed by playing with Molinari in the last group and a passionate Italian crowd.
He said: “I have though about the crowd, but they are actually very good. I think as long as they see lots of good golf they are not fussed who it’s from.
“I have been playing well. I have been working hard for the last few weeks now and it has been going well for the last few weeks and it seems to be coming together so I am pretty happy.
“My technique is slowly getting there but I did feel that the mental side of things needed to improve so I have started working with John Pates again and he has given me lots of stuff to work on and it seems to be working.
“I have been just trying to remember all the good shots that I have hit rather than reflect on the bad ones and I think that’s important. You can’t go round the course trying to think about technique all the time, you have to concentrate on getting the ball in the hole.
“I think my Challenge Tour win from last year will stand me in good stead for tomorrow. I led that event from the start and I think that’s when I play my best – when I am in contention. I hope so anyway.”