Former champion Gregory Havret of France and England’s Mark Roe share the lead after first round of the 61st Telecom Italia Open after opening rounds of 64, eight under par, at Castello di Tolcinasco Golf and Country Club in Milan took them one clear of New Zealand’s Michael Campbell and Swede Christopher Hanell.
Roe, re-united with an “old friend” – the putter he first used six years ago when he began using the long-handled putter – suddenly found his touch on the greens for the first time this season to roll in six birdies and an eagle putt on the ninth, his final hole to set the clubhouse target of eight under par.
“The second I came here and set foot on the golf course, and looked at the greens I could see lines again,” said Roe. “I changed my putter, went rummaging around in the garage and pulled the old one out as I felt a change was as good as a rest and it worked nicely.
“When I pulled this out, as soon as I got it in my hands it was like an old friend. It just swung differently, the balance was better and it stayed on line better when I made my stroke. I thought why did I ever get rid of it in the first place.”
Havret, who won the title at Is Molas in his rookie season of 2001, picked up nine birdies in total to match Roe’s impressive title as he seeks a second victory in an event he clearly relishes. After winning in 2001, Havret slipped down the Volvo Order of Merit but after some hard work over the winter, is reaping the rewards.
“I have had a few good scores early in tournaments this season so I have to work on this and be more consistent over the final rounds,” said Havret. “I will try and keep going and see for the future. After I won in Italy I struggled for a year or so but put in a lot of good work over the winter, especially on the putting. I am very confident everything is going in the right direction.”
Campbell, playing his first event in Europe this season, made a good start with a flawless seven under par 65 after what he described as “the best ball striking round of the year”. Had he converted some of the eight missed putts from within 15 feet, an even more spectacular round would have been on the cards.
The New Zealander, having committed himself to The European Tour, has set his sights this season on winning the Volvo Order of Merit and victory in Milan would certainly help the cause.
Hanell, who claimed his maiden title in the Madeira Island Open last month, has enjoyed two weeks back at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, but continued with his early season form by picking up eight birdies and just one dropped shot on his final hole where he found water with his second shot.
Four players share fifth place, including England’s mark Foster who bounced back from a triple bogey on his third hole with eight birdies and an eagle for a round of 66, while tournament favourite Ian Poulter of England, champion in 2000 and 2002, shot an opening 68, four under par.