Matt Wallace, a mini-tour player in 2016, in position for 2nd Euro Tour win at Italian Open

AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

Matt Wallace, a mini-tour player in 2016, in position for 2nd Euro Tour win at Italian Open

Euro Tour

Matt Wallace, a mini-tour player in 2016, in position for 2nd Euro Tour win at Italian Open

Matt Wallace could be about to move into a whole new stratosphere.

The Englishman takes the 54-hole lead at the $7 million Italian Open. Another good round and he can reach that elusive next level so many tour pros talk about.

A 4-under 67 moved the 27-year-old to 17 under, two shots ahead of home favorite Francesco Molinari and in-form Tyrrell Hatton, winner of last week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews.

Wallace had five birdies and dropped just one shot, a bogey at the par-3 seventh, as he took command of the tournament. Wallace is looking for his second victory of the season following his Portugal Open win in May.

Not bad for a guy who last year was playing on the Alps Tour, a European mini-tour two levels below the European Tour. Wallace won six times on the Alps circuit and then failed to get his European Tour card at the Qualifying School. He earned a full exemption for this season with his Portugal win. Now he’s looking to rocket up the European pecking order from his current position at 130th.

A win in the lucrative Rolex Series event will do just that.

“I’d say we’re probably only halfway there, halfway done, because Sunday is a different day,” Wallace said.

“I’m going to go out, fight as hard as I can and hopefully be standing here with the trophy tomorrow.

“Like I said yesterday and the day before, I’m playing some really nice stuff.”

He’ll have a fight on his hands against Molinari and Hatton. Both are in excellent form. Molinari is ranked 18th in the world, while Hatton is 22nd. Wallace is 150th.

“I’m very pleased,” said Molinari, who returned a 66. “I played very well.

“I think the game has been improving throughout the week, which is important.

“Obviously I know it’s going to be tough tomorrow, but I’m in a good position. It won’t be easy for anyone, but I’m happy to be in the mix.”

So are the galleries at Golf Club Milano. They’ve been cheering on the home hope all week. The final round will be no different.

Hatton stayed in contention with a 6-under 65. He’s looking to make it two wins in a row after his St. Andrews success last week.

“I played really nicely all day to be honest,” Hatton said. “I holed quite a few putts on the front nine and, sadly, I just couldn’t make the most of my opportunities on the back nine.

“It was a game of two halves on the greens, but I’m in a good position going into tomorrow.”

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