Fitzpatrick takes early lead at Italian Open


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Matthew Fitzpatrick claimed a one-shot lead after the opening day of the Italian Open on Thursday, but darkness fell before he could complete his first round.

The US Open champion is five-under after 15 holes and a single stroke clear of eight players, including world number two Rory McIlroy.

The 28-year-old Fitzpatrick, bidding for a ninth European Tour title this week, is expected to be one of Europe’s key players for next year’s Ryder Cup in Rome.

The Englishman impressed at Marco Simone Golf Club, where Europe will bid to regain the trophy from the United States in 12 months’ time, with five birdies to make the first significant move.

“I played well in patches,” Fitzpatrick told europeantour.com. “I’ve been lucky off the tee probably three times today…

“To be honest I’m taking my chances when I’ve had them, which is great. But just need to sharpen the driver.”

McIlroy struggled on his opening nine holes after starting at the 10th, making the turn at one-over par.

But the four-time major champion sparked his round into life in spectacular style, holing out from 115 yards on the par-four third hole for an eagle.

Three more birdies followed to leave McIlroy, who finished just one shot behind winner Shane Lowry at last week’s BMW PGA Championship, bang in contention again.

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“I felt like I was still half-asleep playing that front nine,” he said.

“I think that eagle obviously ignited something and sort of kick-started my round a little bit. I played some really good golf on the way in.

“I can’t complain, I played the more difficult nine well and the easier nine not so well, so probably evened out.”

World number 10 Viktor Hovland made a solid start and is one-under through 15 holes.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton battled to one-over with two holes remaining in his first round.

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald rolled back the years with an eagle on the par-five 12th and sits on two-under after 14.

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