Rory McIlroy (9/4 – Italian Open 2022 outright) feels he could be in with a chance of winning the Italian Open after kicking on through the back nine to end the opening day with a four-under round of 67.

The Northern Irishman finished runner-up at last week’s BMW PGA Championship and impressed again in Rome on Thursday.

He started on the 10th tee at the 2023 Ryder Cup venue and dropped shots with bogeys on the 11th and 17th but then improved on the back nine.

McIlroy holed from 115 yards for an eagle on the par-four third before picking up birdies from more than 10 feet at the fifth and eighth.

A further gain on the ninth saw him head into the clubhouse on four-under and he’s firmly in the mix going into Friday’s action at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.

McIlroy said: “(I) Felt like I was still half-asleep playing that front nine. I think that eagle obviously ignited something and sort of kick-started my round a little bit. I played some really good golf on the way in.

“I can’t complain, I played the more difficult nine well and the easier nine not so well, so probably evened out.

“Just a few things to adjust to, but yeah, overall, if I can get the ball in the fairway the next three days, I should have a chance.”

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Nicolai Hojgaard (28/1 – Italian Open 2022 outright) also made a solid start to the defence of his maiden DP World Tour title after carding a three-under 68.

The Dane fired off five birdies on his first nine holes and although he was unable to build on that through the back nine, he was pleased with his opening round.

Hojgaard said: “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.”

Play was suspended early due to fading light with plenty yet to finish their first round, including current leader Matt Fitzpatrick (5/2 – Italian Open 2022 outright), who is on five-under after 15 holes.

Joost Luiten (45/1 – Italian Open 2022 outright) sits in an eight-way tie for second on four-under, having only completed 13 holes, with Englishman Eddie Pepperell (28/1) and Scotland’s Scott Jamieson (40/1) also in that group after they finished their rounds.

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