The Italian carded a remarkable round of 63 (-9) including a finish of five consecutive birdies to take a one-shot lead over a chasing pack boasting four other Europeans in the top six places.
Commenting on his clubhouse lead Laporta said: “It was a great day. I played solid all 18 holes. My putting was solid as well as my driver and irons. I gave myself a lot of opportunity for birdies and made them when I had the chance. Every time I had a putt for birdie, I made it.”
Close behind him in joint second, Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick, who finished third in 2017 and is yet to make a bogey after the first two rounds, carded a fine score of 67 (–5) while Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello maintained his first round form with a score of 68 (–4).
Reflecting on another excellent round, Fitzpatrick added: “For the first week of the year, to have no bogeys, I couldn’t ask for a better start. I played really disciplined golf and it’s worked out well so far.”
The only non-European in the top six is Chinese star Haotong Li who is making his third consecutive appearance at the tournament. Li who has never made the cut, shot a composed 69 (-3) that included a flurry of birdies on the 15th, 16th, and 18th holes to sit one shot further back and is primed to make a charge heading into moving day at the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
Fan favourite Lee Westwood continued his fine form to card a bogey-free 68 (-4) that puts himself in a strong position to make a bid to win an astonishing 25th European Tour event this weekend, a record that will leave him just five titles behind fellow Englishman Nick Faldo.
Teen sensation, 15-year old Josh Hill, who generated one of the stories of the week by beating World Number One Brooks Koepka in practice, produced another strong round to finish his tournament on a credible six-over par while Emirati local, Ahmed Skaik continued his development – his highlight coming on the par four 6th where he made a picturesque birdie.
Reviewing his tournament Hill added: “It’s been a fun week and a brilliant experience. I’ve enjoyed being on the big stage but a little disappointed in my performance, but I’ve learned a lot. I love playing in Abu Dhabi where the course is perfect, the weather is amazing and the people are incredibly welcoming. I look forward to hopefully coming back many times into the future.”
Discussing his 2020 tournament, Ahmed added: “This has been a hugely enjoyable experience for me. It is very special to play in front of a home crowd and have the support of friends and family. I will remember this week for a long time.”