Wallace holds 2-stroke lead after 3rd round of Italian Open

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Matt Wallace, of Britain, tees off during the third round of the Italian Open Golf tournament in Monza, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 14. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Matt Wallace, of Britain, tees off during the third round of the Italian Open Golf tournament in Monza, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 14. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Monza, Italy (AP) — Matt Wallace held a two-stroke lead after the third round of the Italian Open on Saturday as the Englishman seeks a wire-to-wire victory.

Defending champion and home favorite Francesco Molinari stood two strokes back along with Tyrrell Hatton, last week’s winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

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Wallace sunk five birdies and had only one bogey before pulling off a difficult par save after driving into the trees at the 18th to stay at 17 under.

“That was the only bad drive I hit this week,” Wallace said. “I got it out onto the fairway and that’s where I knuckled down and really showed what this game means to me.”

Wallace claimed his first European Tour title at the Open de Portugal in May. Now he’s seeking his first Rolex Series victory this weekend, in a tournament that features an increased purse of $7 million as part of the buildup to the 2022 Ryder Cup outside Rome.

Molinari, meanwhile, is enjoying large crowd support with no entrance fees at the Golf Club Milano next to Monza’s Formula One circuit.

“I need to do my own thing and stay patient,” Molinari said of the fans. “Obviously they want me to do well and they want me to birdie every hole, which I have to realize is not a realistic goal. But it’s great to have their enthusiastic support.”

George Coetzee of South Africa was tied for fourth with Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand after producing two eagles.

Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood climbed up the leaderboard with a 63 to get into a tie for sixth, four strokes back.