Nicolai Højgaard was pleased to make a solid start to his first defence of a DP World Tour title after firing a 68 on day one of the 2022 DS Automobiles Italian Open.
The talented Dane claimed his maiden victory at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club last year before securing win number two at the Ras al Khaimah Championship presented by Phoenix Capital in February.
After being announced as the defending champion for the first time, Højgaard - starting at the tenth tee - reeled off five birdies in his first nine holes.
The homeward nine did not go as smoothly for the 21-year-old, who added one more birdie and three bogeys to finish the day on three under par.
He said: "It's pretty cool to hear your name as defending champion.
"But the work doesn't change now. You still have to go out and do what you need to do and I felt like I did it 90 per cent of the way today, and hopefully be flying the next few days.
Speaking about his 68, Højgaard added: "It was a good round. We started off this morning and I thought it's going to be a tricky one.
"It was tricky out there but I managed to play some solid golf, really good golf the first nine holes and then lost a bit of rhythm on the back nine off the tee and put myself in some hard positions off the tee.
"But most of all, it's a good start to the defence."