Molinari justifies predictions with one-shot leadaut

PICKED out by Paul McGinley as a player to keep an eye on this week, Francesco Molinari isn’t disappointing last year’s Ryder Cup-winning captain.The Italian takes a two-shot lead into the final two rounds of the BMW PGA Championship after backing up his opening 65 with a 69 to sit on ten-under-par at the halfway stage.

McGinley, of course, wasn’t taking a stab in the dark with his pick for the event. Molinari has finished in the top ten here for the last three years. “I think it suits my game better now,” said the 32-year-old, referring to the fact he’d been unable to achieve that feat before the changes made to the course.

This has been a happy hunting ground for Italians. Costantino Rocca claimed the title in 1996 while Matteo Manassero triumphed in a play-off two years ago. “There’s a bit of good Italian karma here,” noted Molinari.

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He finished second behind James Morrison in the Spanish Open last weekend but has armed himself with a different putter for this test. “It has a bigger face and is more of a mallet shape,” he reported. “I was struggling with my aim last week and the results with this one have been good so far.”

Leading the pursuit on eight-under are Thai Thongchai Jaidee (66) and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, who stepped up his bid for a breakthrough European Tour win with a second-round 65 that was illuminated by two eagles on the back nine - at the 12th and 18th. The 22-year-old has made 17 cuts in a row and is now 76-under-par for his last 180 holes. It’s only a matter of time surely that he enters the winners’ circle. “It is a little but niggling that I haven’t won but, as one of my friend keeps saying, if you keep knocking a door is going to open,” said Grillo. Taking up where he left off in Barcelona, Morrison is in the mix again, having recovered from being four-over after ten holes in his opening round to reach the halfway point at seven-under. “I seem to play well and I just want to keep snowballing from here,” he said.

Only three Scots - Marc Warren, Scott Jamieson and Chris Doak - are left standing. David Drysdale was disqualified on Thursday night for signing for a wrong score at the last; Paul Lawrie withdrew yesterday morning and Craig Lee did likewise after just two holes. The others - Richie Ramsay, Greig Hutcheon and former winner Scott Drummond - all missed the cut.