Molinari toils as Pulkkanen leads Italian Open

By Sports Desk October 10, 2019

Home hopeful Francesco Molinari endured an underwhelming start to the Italian Open with an even-par opening round as trilby-wearing Tapio Pulkkanen led early on.

The 2018 Open Championship winner, Molinari has twice triumphed in Italy, but he struggled to make inroads on Thursday with a round that contained two birdies and two bogeys.

That left Molinari trailing his brother Edoardo by a stroke and put him just above the projected cut line, leaving one of the tournament's biggest names under pressure heading into Friday.

Sitting pretty at the top of the leaderboard, though, was Pulkkanen after the lowest opening round of his European Tour career - an impressive seven-under 64.

The 29-year-old Finn went bogey-free, making four consecutive birdies from the 14th, and said: "I think the first year [on the tour] was a learning year. The second year has been more comfortable being here.

"I haven't played that well in the Rolex tournaments so it's kind of a new situation as well, but it's a long way to go and I feel good about my game.

"My putter was really hot today. I made a lot of putts, especially on the front nine, I was five under, I made a lot of long putts. It was perfect greens, so easy to make them."

Despite Molinari's struggles, there were still a number of notable talents in pursuit of Pulkkanen and Rory Sabbatini, who was one shot back.

World number five Justin Rose reached five under, where he was joined by Kurt Kitayama, Joost Luiten, Shubhankar Sharma and Bernd Wiesberger.

However, Victor Perez, playing just two weeks on from his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship success, was in miserable form, with seven bogeys leaving him at three over.

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