Six men shot 64s on Thursday at Day One of the Italian Open, none more impressive than defending champion Francesco Molinari.
With enormous crowds on hand to cheer for last year’s victorious native son, Molinari recorded nine birdies on his way to finish 7-under.
“It’s great to see the crowds,” Molinari said. “I think there’s a nice buzz around the placea nd I’m happy and proud to be part of it. Obviously it was another good day. I started pretty much where I left off last year, so it was great.”
Tied for the lead with the defending champion are Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Sweden’s Alexander Bjork, Wales’ Jamie Donaldson, and England’s Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace. Only three of the six are currently in the top 60 for the upcoming Final Series. Aphibarnrat is 65th, while Donaldson and Wallace are both well out of the top 100.
Molinari is ranked eighth in the latest Race to Dubai standings and 18th in the world.
Two strokes behind the leaders are a pair of familiar faces in Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren. Garcia is second in the Race to Dubai standings, Noren is fifth. Jon Rahm of Spain, who is third in the standings and ranked No. 5 in the world, is tied for 17th, three strokes off the lead.