|-5 M Fitzpatrick (Eng) after 15 years; -4 S Jamieson (Sco), R McIlroy (NI), A Rozner (Fra), E Pepperell (Eng), G Green (Mal), A Arnaus (Spa), A Quiros (Spa) after 16 years, J Luiten (Ned) after 13; -3 O Bekker (SA), N Hoejgaard (Den), T Bjorn (Den) after 16 years, L de Jager (SA) after 14 years|
|Others selected: -2 R Mansell (Eng), A Rai (Eng), L Donald (Eng) 14; -1 R MacIntyre (Sco), (Eng), J Caldwell (NI), R Hoejgaard (Den); Level A Sullivan (Eng); +1 T Hatton (Eng); +2 C Sharvin (NI), F Molinari (Italy)|
US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick leads the standings after the first day of a weather-delayed Italian Open, with Rory McIlroy in a late Group One.
Fitzpatrick was five under after 15 holes when play was halted – helped by three straight birdies from the 11th.
McIlroy recovered from a slow start to post a four-under 67, which was helped by an approach shot from 115 yards.
England’s Eddie Pepperell and Scotland’s Scott Jamieson were part of a six-man group that also reached 67.
Malaysian Gavin Green, Spaniard Adri Arnaus and Frenchman Antoine Rozner also finished at four under with another Spaniard, Alvaro Quiros, and Dutchman Joost Luiten at the same mark after 16 and 13 holes respectively.
First round action could not be completed on Thursday after the threat of lightning had previously caused an hour delay to play.
“I shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night”
After starting on the 10th, McIlroy hit a shot over par but he made a 115-yard shot for eagle on third before carding three late birdies to Rome.
“I felt like I was still half asleep playing that front nine,” McIlroy said.
Next year’s Ryder Cup will take place at the same Marco Simone Golf and Country Club and McIlroy met European captain Luke Donald and other likely members of the squad for dinner and a “bonding” session on Wednesday evening.
Referring to his early first-round struggles, the four-time major winner joked to Sky Sports that “I shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night”.
McIlroy threw his ball in frustration following a bogey on the 17th and had to break through 18 feet to save the par on the 18th before his holey approach shot on the third helped turn his day around.
“That eagle obviously sparked something and kind of got my game started and I’ve played some really good golf along the way,” added McIlroy, who tops this year’s DP World Tour standings after winning the title. of the PGA’s Tour FedEx Cup. last month.
Wednesday’s talks with Donald and other potential European squad members most likely centered on what kind of course layout would suit the hosts best and McIlroy hinted at it after his first round.
“In terms of stats, Team USA is very good from 150 (yards), so they try to make the golf course a challenge to get your tee shots in that range,” a- he declared.
“I think by forcing people to play more conservatively off the tee it helps the Europeans a bit, I think that’s part of the strategy for next year.”
Denmark’s Nicolai Hoejgaard, who won the Italian Open title last year in his first victory on the tour, closed his round in impressive fashion with five birdies over his final eight holes to shoot a 68 that left him two shots behind Fitzpatrick.