Molinari makes fast start at Monza
Defending champion Francesco Molinari sat in a six-way tie for the lead at the end of the first round of the Italian Open after a stunning opening 64.
The Italian had the home fans purring as he played his opening nine, starting from the tenth tee, in five-under par, including a chip-in birdie on the 18th hole.
Molinari would make further gains at the first and second to grab a share of the lead.
His only bogey of the day came at the third and he was then forced to work hard for pars before adding a final birdie at the seventh to return to seven-under par.
I started pretty much where I left off last year, so it was great.Francesco Molinari
Huge crowds headed to Golf Club Milano on Thursday morning to witness the start of Molinari's title defence and he was suitably thrilled with his play.
"Obviously it was another good day. I started pretty much where I left off last year, so it was great," he said.
"It's great to see the crowds. I think there's a nice buzz around the place and I'm happy and proud to be part of it."
Molinari was joined in the early wave by Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jamie Donaldson and Alexander Bjork on seven-under, while Englishmen Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace signed for 64 later in the day.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia is two-shots back on five-under par while fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm is on four-under alongside in-form Irishman Paul Dunne.
Molinari is 1000/1 to complete back-to-back Italian Open wins. Garcia is now 1000/1 while Rahm is 400/1.
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