A hat-trick of birdies from the 11th helped Matthew Fitzpatrick move into the lead before play was halted

-5 M Fitzpatrick (Eng) after 15; -4 S Jamieson (Sco), R McIlroy (NI), A Rozner (Fra), E Pepperell (Eng), G Green (Mal), A Arnaus (Spa), A Quiros (Spa) after 16, J Luiten (Ned) after 13; -3 O Bekker (SA), N Hoejgaard (Den), T Bjorn (Den) after 16, L de Jager (SA) after 14
Selected others: -2 R Mansell (Eng), A Rai (Eng), L Donald (Eng) 14; -1 R MacIntyre (Sco), (Eng), J Caldwell (NI), R Hoejgaard (Den); levels A Sullivan (Eng); +1 T Hatton (Eng); +2 C Sharvin (NI), F Molinari (Ita)
Full leader board

US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick tops the leaderboard after day one of a weather-delayed Italian Open, with Rory McIlroy in a group one off the pace.

Fitzpatrick was at five under after 15 holes when play was halted – helped by three straight birdies from the 11th.

McIlroy recovered from a slow start to post a four-under 67, which was aided by him holing a 115-yard approach shot.

England’s Eddie Pepperell and Scotland’s Scott Jamieson were among a six-strong group that also hit 67.

Malaysia’s Gavin Green, Spain’s Adri Arnaus and France’s Antoine Rozner also finished on four under with another Spaniard, Alvaro Quiros, and Dutchman Joost Luiten on the same mark after 16 and 13 holes respectively.

The first-round action could not be completed on Thursday after the threat of lightning had earlier caused a one-hour delay to play.

‘I shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night’

After starting at the 10th, McIlroy turned in one over par but he took a 115-yard shot to eagle the third before carding three late birdies in Rome.

“I felt like I was still helping asleep playing that front nine,” said McIlroy.

Next year’s Ryder Cup takes place at the same Marco Simone Golf and Country Club and McIlroy met Europe captain Luke Donald and fellow likely team members for dinner and a “bonding” session on Wednesday night.

Referring to his early struggles in round one, the four-time major winner joked to Sky Sports that “I shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night”.

McIlroy threw his ball away in frustration following a bogey on the 17th and had to hole from 18 feet to save par on the 18th before his holed approach shot at the third helped turn his day around.

Rory McIlroy attempts to escape from thick rough early in his opening round at the Italian OpenRory McIlroy struggled over his front nine on Thursday before his holed approach shot from 115 yards for eagle at the third ignited his round

“That eagle obviously ignited something and sort of kick-started my round a little bit and I played some really good golf on the way in,” added McIlroy, who is leading this year’s DP World Tour rankings after clinching the PGA’s Tour FedEx Cup title last month.

Wednesday’s discussions with Donald and other prospective Europe team members most likely included the topic of which type course set-up would best suit the hosts and McIlroy alluded to that after his opening round.

“Stats-wise the American team are very good from 150 (yards) in, so they’re trying to set the golf course up that it’s a challenge to get your tee shots within that range,” he said.

“I think by forcing people to play more conservative off the tee helps the Europeans a little bit, I think that’s part of the strategy for next year.”

Denmark’s Nicolai Hoejgaard, who clinched the Italian Open title last year in his first tour victory, closed his round impressively with five birdies over his closing eight holes to fire a 68 which left him two strokes behind Fitzpatrick.

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