Pulkkanen makes fast start in Italy

Tapio Pulkkanen carded the lowest opening round of his European Tour career to set the clubhouse target on day one of the Italian Open.

Tapio Pulkkanen

Olgiata Golf Club was playing host for the first time in 17 years as the Rolex Series arrived in Rome and Finn Pulkkanen set a blistering pace with a 64.

That matched his lowest ever score on the European Tour, set in just his fourth round after graduating from the European Challenge Tour at the Joburg Open last season, where he achieved a career best finish of third.

His bogey free effort moved him to seven under, two clear of American Kurt Kitayama and Dutchman Joost Luiten, and three ahead of England's Matthew Fitzpatrick and Andrew Johnston.

Kitayama is enjoying an incredible rookie season since coming through the Qualifying School, winning twice in his first 11 events and sitting 30th on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex.

Luiten, a six time winner on the European Tour, is one place above Kitayama on the Rankings after another consistent season with a Rolex Series top three in Abu Dhabi and a World Golf Championships top ten in Mexico.

Pulkkanen hit the front as he turned in 31 from the tenth with a birdie on the 11th and four in a row from the 14th - the highlight being a very long putt on the 15th.

Kitayama also started on the back nine and after a bogey on the tenth, he picked up shots on the 11th, 12th, 15th, 16th and 17th to sit just one back.

He very briefly shared the lead with a birdie from ten feet at the third but Pulkkanen holed another long one on the fifth and a ten footer of his own on the next put the 29-year-old two ahead.

A Kitayama bogey on the sixth left the leader three ahead as he parred his way home to set a daunting 18 hole target.

Kitayama then laid up on the ninth but hit a beautiful pitch to set up a closing birdie and cut the gap.

Luiten made a fast start with birdies on the tenth, 12th and 14th and then broke a run of eight pars from 15 feet on the fifth before making another gain on the next.

Fitzpatrick bogeyed the 13th but birdied five of his next six holes to catapult himself right into contention.

He compounded a poor second shot with a three putt at the fifth in a double bogey but a birdie-birdie finish got him back to four under.

Johnston endured a roller coaster on his first nine, making three birdies and three bogeys to turn in 36 from the tenth.

Birdies on the second, fifth and eighth then edged him up the leaderboard and a 12 footer on his final hole had him within three.

English trio Ross Fisher, Sam Horsfield and Chris Paisley, Dane Søren Kjeldsen and Austrian Matthias Schwab were at three under.

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