Defending champ Molinari shares Italian Open lead

Defending champion Francesco Molinari was one of six co-leaders after the opening round of the Italian Open.

The 34-year-old from Turin thrilled the large crowds with a spectacular seven-under-par 64 – but was far from the only player to achieve the score at Golf Club Milano.

Fellow early starters Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jamie Donaldson and Alexander Björk also posted opening 64s, while English duo Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace matched them in the afternoon.

George Coetzee and Byeong Hun An were in a tie for seventh on six under, while reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren were among the large group a further shot back.

Starting from the 10th, Molinari picked up five shots in his first nine holes, and then made four more gains after the turn – with only bogeys at the third and eighth preventing what could have been an even better round.

“Obviously it was another good day. I started pretty much where I left off last year, so it was great,” he said after his round.

“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.”

It was also a good day for Thailand’s Aphibarnrat, who led on his own for most of the morning.

“I’m really happy with the way I played in the first round – seven under,” he said.

“This course really suits my game – small greens, quite a narrow golf course and my driver and putter are working so well, so that’s why I made a good start.”