England's Ross McGowan equaled the lowest round of his European Tour career to share the lead after the first round of the Italian Open on Thursday.
McGowan carded an eight under par 64 to be alongside Paraguay’s Marco Ruiz, leading by a stroke from World Cup-winning Scot Marc Warren, England’s Mark Foster and South African Hennie Otto.
On a day of low scoring, the US’ John Daly bounced back from his missed cut at last week’s Spanish Open with a 67 while Ryder Cup hopeful Nick Dougherty scored a 71.
The 2006 English amateur champion McGowan had four successive birdies from the 13th as he turned in a superb 30.
Two more birdies in his last four holes completed his day’s work.
“On the important holes you have to drive well, but I also holed out well from 10 feet and in,” McGowan said. “The next goal is to try to secure my card for next season, then I’ll take it from there.”
Ruiz is ranked only 410th in the world, but won in Argentina in December and was leading for a while in Seville last Sunday before slipping back to 15th.
Another Paraguayan, Fabrizio Zanotti, is also in the top 10 after a 66 and they are further examples of how a tiny golfing nation — just six courses — can still pack a punch.
Carlos Franco has won four times in America, Julieta Granada and Celeste Troche won the women’s World Cup last year and there was also the occasion when Scotland lost to them in the Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews.
Daly was delighted to have shown some improvement in his game at long last, having made it through to the weekend in only two of his 10 events in the US this season and having failed in Seville as well.
The 42-year-old former Open champion, who has slumped to 609th in the world, underwent stomach surgery a month ago.
“This is the healthiest I’ve been in more than a year — it was brutal with the pain and it’s nice to have my swing back,” he said.