Abu Dhabi Golf Championship: Francesco Laporta aims to block out distractions in attempt to land 'dream' title

The Italian lost his Tour card just a few years ago, but on Sunday will be contesting the final group at a Rolex Series event

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 18: Francesco Laporta of Italy lines up a putt on the eighteenth green during Day Three of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 18, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
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If, after 26 years of a storied career as a Tour pro, Lee Westwood is excited to be contending for the Falcon Trophy, then consider the case of his Sunday afternoon playing partner Francesco Laporta.

Aged 29, Laporta is starting out on just his second season on the European Tour.

His first crack at the big time, in 2016, lasted just a season before he lost his card and had to drop back down to the second-tier Challenge Tour.

His best finish back then was tied for 22nd at a tournament in Morocco that he was leading after two rounds – just as he had been here in the capital this weekend.

He will start the last day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA in the final three-ball, a shot behind leader Westwood, and level with Bernd Wiesberger.

Stars are all around. Former Masters champion Sergio Garcia is in the group behind, as is the 2016 DP World Tour Championship winner Matt Fitzpatrick.

The likes of Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay and Brooks Koepka – only the world’s No 1 golfer – will start Round 4 well behind him.

It is already dreamy stuff for the Italian. He acknowledged he will be doing his best to avoid looking at the leaderboard on his final trip round the National Course, but he is aware he will have his work cut out.

“It would be just a dream,” Laporta said, after signing for a 3-under par 69 in Round 3. “I just want to think about my score and my game. I’ll be trying not to see the leaderboard, but it's not going to be easy.

“There’s going to be leaderboards everywhere. I think it's going to be a good day tomorrow.”

While Wiesberger might not have quite the level of celebrity as Westwood et al, he is far more used to this sort of company than Laporta. He was, after all, playing for the Race to Dubai title last time he was in the country.

The Austrian’s third-round 65 matched that of the leader Westwood, and he is happy with his game going into the last day.

“I'm very confident with my irons right now and the putter is starting to warm up, as well, so I'm looking forward to Sunday,” Wiesberger said.


Day 3 at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship