VILAMOURA, Portugal – Francesco Molinari had an eagle and eight birdies Thursday to take a two-shot lead with a 9-under 63 after the first round of the Portugal Masters.
Despite one bogey, the Italian matched his lowest-ever score on the European Tour.
The last time Molinari scored that well was at the Irish Open five months ago. He was disqualified in the second round of that tournament for signing for the wrong score.
Alastair Forsyth, Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel were tied for second, and Lee Westwood was in a group of six another shot back.
Colin Montgomerie showed a return to form by making birdies on four of his first six holes and finished with a 68. The European Ryder Cup captain has failed to finish in the top 10 this year.
Rory McIlroy, the current European Tour money leader, carded a 69 as did Padraig Harrington, who made five birdies before bogeys at the 17th and 18th.