Stenson equals Italian course record in further Ryder Cup boost

Bernie McGuire

Henrik Stenson (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

Henrik Stenson continues to muscle his way into European Ryder Cup selection contention after another impressive showing in an equal course-record setting 64 on the opening day of the DS Automobiles Italian Open in Rome.

Stenson birdied his opening two holes on route to a bogey-free display on the completely revamped Marco Simone course that is set to host the 2023 Ryder Cup. The champion Swede arrived in the Italian capital on the back of a third-place finish at the Omega European Masters and the week prior Stenson shared fourth place in the Czech Masters.

Stenson ended his day’s play tied at the top with Scottish Open winner Min Woo Lee of Australia and Finland’s Kalle Samooja.

“Once again I think I played a good round of golf,” said Stenson. “I don’t want to make any mistakes early in terms of missing greens, so the few times I did I managed to keep a clean card and made some lovely putts to keep it tidy, so I was very happy with that.

“My golf has been really good these last two or three weeks, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t had good practice over the last couple of months, so it feels nice to keep it tidy and I have had a few bogey-free rounds – don’t jinx that now please – but it is kind of the same, we try and stay focused, stay patient and just keep on playing our game and improving at the same time.

“More than anything I feel like I am in a good frame of mind to play golf and to try and get the best score out of my game. There is still more to wish for, but we take the positives and keep on working on the rest.”

The European Tour is being hosted on the Rome course for the first time this week after extensive renovations to the course ahead of hosting the Ryder Cup. And there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony involving representatives from Ryder Cup Europe, the Federazione Italiana Golf and Marco Simone Golf & Country Club plus champion Italian Francesco Molinari ahead of the start to play in the 78th edition of the Italian Open.

It is the second time Marco Simone has hosted Italy’s national open, having previously done so in 1994, and this week represents another important milestone for the venue, built and owned by the Biagiotti family who run global businesses in fashion and fragrance, as it showcases its significant redesign to a global audience for the first time.

“There is definitely a trickiness to it,” said Stenson. “A few of the greens are very undulated and they are quick as we play them now, and I think we are going to see some tough putting on a few of those.

“If you can’t put the ball in the right spot, you are behind the eight ball. We saw that in our group a couple times today and fortunately for me I wasn’t the one in the wrong spot, but it can definitely come up and bite you and it is still good conditions for scoring today.”

From an Irish point of view, Jonathan Caldwell carded two birdies and two bogeys in an even par 71 while Cormac Sharvin was seven-over par through 17 holes of his opening effort.

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