Englishmen Robert Rock and Chris Wood, playing in the same group, lead the way at the BMW Italian Open after 8-under-par opening rounds on Thursday, giving them both hope of a first European Tour title.
Wood, a 23-year-old 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 managed a fifth successive birdie on the last, it put him on top of the leaderboard on his own.
However, Wood -- who reported back problems after his rund -- was not to be outdone, holing a three-foot putt on the final hole soon after to make sure of a share of the clubhouse lead on a day of good scoring at Roveri's Royal Park Club.
"It was good playing with Rocky and we seemed to fire off each other,” said Wood. “It was a good round without a bogey -- always nice to play that way."
"Nine birdies and one bogey was good,” said Rock. "I love this course and it was good to be in a group where someone else was knocking them in and I enjoyed playing with Chris. I holed quite a lot of putts today, which is something that has been testing me over the last couple of months."
Scotland's Scott Jamieson was among a group of three players a shot further back on 7 under par, finishing an impressive round that contained an early eagle with a birdie. Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark, and Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello both enjoyed bogey-free rounds of 65 to sit alongside Jamieson.
Seven players finished tied for sixth on 6 under, including Italians Matteo Manassero and Francesco Molinari and Welshman Rhys Davies.
Teenager Manassero, who made his professional debut at this event last year, scored five birdies and an eagle at the par-5 11th while Molinari also sank an eagle at the same hole. Davies recovered from a dropped shot on the opening hole by hitting eight birdies, including four in succession between the fifth and eighth holes.
Colin Montgomerie finished a long way down the field, signing for a 3-over-par 75 in a opening round that included a double bogey at the 13th. After crashing out of the Saab Wales Open on 15 over a week ago, Montgomerie knows he is facing a tough battle to make sure of his place at this year's British Open.
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 2 under.
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