Min Woo Lee makes running at Italian Open

Min Woo Lee will lead a high-quality field into weekend action at the Italian Open with the young Australian golf star two shots ahead after 36 holes.

MIN WOO LEE.
MIN WOO LEE. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

Australia's Min Woo Lee holds a two-stroke advantage at the Italian Open for the first halfway lead of his flourishing European Tour career.

Following up his opening round 64, Lee fired a three-under par 68 at the Marco Simone Golf Club, host venue for the 2023 the Ryder Cup.

The 23-year-old began Friday's second round in a three-way tie for the lead and made his intentions clear with a birdie at the first from inside five feet.

He stumbled with a bogey on the sixth hole but from there is was smooth sailing for the Scottish Open winner.

Lee made another four birdies, including chip-in at the seventh and another at the ninth when he regained a share of the lead.

There was a big swing at the top of the leaderboard as Lee birdied the 12th to move into double digits under par and Kalle Samooja dropped two shots at the fourth hole to give the Australian a two-shot lead.

Lee came close to getting a bonus birdie at the 14th when his chip from the bank hit the hole, but it did not drop and he had to settle for a par there.

He set up another chance with a brilliant tee shot at the 17th but could not convert his 15-foot birdie putt.

Lee's victory in a playoff at the Scottish Open earned the West Australian entry into his first British Open Championship at Royal St George's a week later.

It has also instilled a belief in his game that he said was evident as he closed out Friday's round.

"I made nice putts coming down the stretch," he told the European website.

"I'm happy to be in the lead with two rounds to go."

With wet weather set to arrive in Rome at the weekend, Lee is relishing the chance to test himself in the conditions.

"I'm not sure how it'll play wet," he said. "But I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Lee has a high-quality chasing pack with last month's Czech Masters champion Johannes Veerman, Tommy Fleetwood, Mikko Korhonen and Adri Arnaus in a tie for second on eight under.

Henrik Stenson and home favourite Edoardo Molinari are among a large group another shot further back.