Stephen Dodd’s six under par 65 gave him a two shot clubhouse lead on the opening day of the Sicilian Open.
The Welsh veteran mixed six birdies with two bogeys before a late eagle on the par five 16th saw him move clear of Australian pair Daniel Gaunt and Matthew Zions and England’s Chris Woods.
Dodd, 44, has won three times on The European Tour but not since 2006 and his best finish in four events this season is a 40th-place finish in Qatar.
“I did a lot of good things out there today,” Dodd said. “I kept in play most of the time, hit some good iron shots and I putted well which is always a key for any good round.”
Challenge Tour graduate Gaunt led for most of the morning after starting his day with a hattrick of birdies en route to an outward 30.
But his progress was checked with three bogeys on the back nine, including one at the last, as he signed for a 67.
“Got off to a good start, drove the ball ok for the first few holes,” said Gaunt. “I’ve been hitting it really good in previous tournaments not holing putts and not getting a score so I’m pretty happy with the way I putted.”
Wood - still searching for a first European Tour title after ten top-ten finishes - had five birdies and one dropped shot at the difficult 16th, while Zions eagled both par fives on the back nine at the Donnafugata Golf Resort & SPA layout.
Amongst those just teeing off in the afternoon session were eight-time Order of Merit champion Colin Montgomerie and Scotland’s former Open Championship winner Paul Lawrie - although both were over par after three holes.