Francesco Molinari made an encouraging start in his bid to win the Italian Open for a second time with a four-under-par opening round of 68 at Royal Park near Turin.
The local hero, who won this event in 2006 for his first European Tour title, mixed seven birdies with three bogeys to be four strokes off the lead held by Joel Sjoholm.
Ryder Cup star Molinari, 29, who will be part of the team defending the trophy against the United States in two weeks time, is the 6/1 favourite with bookmaker Paddy Power
to capture the Italian crown in front of his family and friends.
Sjoholm, from Sweden, carded a brilliant bogey-free 64 and admitted he was doubly determined to do well this week after missing consecutive cuts in Switzerland and the Netherlands by a single shot.
“I want revenge,” said the 27-year-old, a 20/1 chance with Paddy Power
. “The last two weeks I actually played quite good golf.
“Normally when I score well, I have to putt well. In the last few weeks I've putted quite poorly and missed the cut by one stroke. Both times I felt like I had a good chance to make the cut, but you have to forget it and keep moving on.
“I hit it basically everywhere. I was in the woods a lot and made some funny birdies. It was a big, fighting 64 rather than a solid 64, but it's great fun to be eight under.
“I know I have to play better in the second round. I won’t make these sorts of birdies four rounds in a row.”
Among those tied for second place, two shots behind Sjoholm, are Victor Dubuisson of France (20/1 with Paddy Power
) and former Ryder Cup player David Howell (28/1).