English pair set pace in Italy

English duo Robert Rock and Chris Wood made the early running at the Italian Open today with eight-under-par opening rounds giving them hope of a maiden European Tour title.

English duo Robert Rock and Chris Wood made the early running at the Italian Open today with eight-under-par opening rounds giving them hope of a maiden European Tour title.

Wood, a 23-year-old Bristolian who was named the tour’s ’Rookie of the Year’ two years ago, briefly took over at the top of the leaderboard on his own with an eagle at the 17th.

He was joined soon after by Rock, and when the 34-year-old from Rugeley managed a fifth successive birdie it put him on top of the leaderboard on his own.

However, Wood – who reported back problems afterwards – was not to be outdone, holing a three-foot putt on the last soon after to make sure of a share of the clubhouse lead on a morning of good scoring at Roveri’s Royal Park club.

Scotland’s Scott Jamieson was only a shot further back on seven under par, finishing an impressive round which contained an early eagle with a birdie.

Matteo Manassero, who made his professional debut at this event last year, was joined on six under by France’s Alexandre Kaleka and Holland’s Joost Luiten.

Peter Whiteford would have been with them on six under, until an excellent week was undone by a disappointing final hole.

The 30-year-old Kirkcaldy-born player, who earlier this week qualified for a place in next week’s US Open, was holding a share of the lead at the time but a double bogey on the final hole – his only dropped shots of the round – meant he slipped back to four under.

Scotland’s Richie Ramsay finished with a birdie to sign for a five-under-par round, while England’s Anthony Wall was alongside him with two holes of his first round to play.

This event has been marred by bad weather in previous years, but sunshine was drying out the greens this morning and enabling most of the players to make good early progress.

However, Colin Montgomerie was not one of them. The 47-year-old, who has won 31 European Tour events, signed for a three-over-par 75.

After crashing out of the Wales Open on 15 over par a week ago, the Scot knows he is facing a battle to make sure of his place at this year’s Open.

Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke was faring little better on one under par, with bogeys at the 13th, 14th and 16th undoing his hopes of making an early impression on the leaderboard.

Fredrik Andersson Hed will also need to make impressive progress over the next few days if he is to successfully defend his title, after an opening-round 70 left him six shots off the pace on two under par.

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