Joel Sjoholm (Getty Images)
Joel Sjöholm put two missed cuts behind him to lead after the first round of the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi.
The Swede missed the weekend by a single shot in both Switzerland and The Netherlands the last two weeks, but rather than scrapping for survival on Friday he will resume with a one shot lead.
An eight under par 64 gave the 27 year old that advantage - even though Sjöholm felt he could have played better.
“I want revenge,” he said. “The last two weeks I actually played quite good golf.
“Normally when I score well, I have to putt well. 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 and keep moving on.
“I hit it basically everywhere. I was in the woods a lot and made some funny birdies today. It was a big, fighting 64 rather than a solid 64, but it's great fun to be eight under.”
Sjöholm’s first encounter with the trees at Royal Park I Roveri came at the third after a mis-cued three wood off the tree, but after threading his approach he holed a putt from the fringe for birdie.
He repeated the trick at the 13th, this time the putt dropping from 20 feet, en route to accumulating eight birdies in a blemish-free round.
“I know that I have to play better golf tomorrow; I'm not going to make these sort of birdies four rounds in a row,” he added.
England’s Lee Slattery picked up three shots in his last four holes to snatch second late in the day on seven under, while France’s Victor Dubuisson, South Africans Keith Horne and Garth Mulroy, Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin and English trio Richard Bland, David Howell and Richard McEvoy all shot rounds off 66 to form a seven-way tie for third.
"It's a place I always play well for some reason,” said Slattery. “I think I've had two 65s round here before. Last week in Holland, although it's a great golf course, I tend to struggle on it, whereas this week I can see the shots. It's nice to open the shoulders a little bit, which you can do here because the rough is not thick.”
Bland and McEvoy both lie outside the top 115 that will retain their cards on The Race to Dubai, so were pleased to enhance their chances of returning to The European Tour next season.
“My game has been solid, but I've been unhappy a lot this season,” said McEvoy. “I started seeing a new coach a couple of months ago - Jonathan Yarwood - and the work we've been doing has been going really well. But I haven't shot a round of five or six under for a while, so it's pleasing to do it today.
“I haven't been hitting the ball close enough to make many birdies, and I haven't been confident enough with my swing to go at pins. That's been the main reason, but now I'm feeling a lot better with my swing and my game.”
Bland added: “At times this season I've felt l like I've played really good golf and got nothing for it, missed the cut even."
Defending champion Robert Rock opened with a two under par 70, while Francesco Molinari’s 68 was the best score of those heading to The Ryder Cup in a fortnight’s time.
The 2006 winner of this event was two shots better than German Martin Kaymer and Captain José María Olazábal, while Nicolas Colsaerts was a shot further back on one under.
"It's fun playing in front of the home crowd, but there's a lot of pressure and everyone wants you to do well,” said Molinari. “It would be nice to give them a nice week, but it's quite tough.
"It was nice to spend some time together [with Nicolas Colsaerts and Martin Kaymer] and I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun in America as well. We talked a little about a few things, but not too much."