Italian Open: Matt Fitzpatrick leads after opening day as Rory McIlroy impresses at Ryder Cup venue
Fitzpatrick set the pace at next year's Ryder Cup venue, with McIlroy one back as he looks to extend his advantage in the DP World Tour rankings; Watch the DS Automobiles Italian Open on Friday from 7.30am on Sky Sports Golf
Last Updated: 15/09/22 7:28pm
Matt Fitzpatrick topped the leaderboard after a weather-disrupted first day at the DS Automobiles Italian Open, where Rory McIlroy bounced back from a slow start to also impress.
Fitzpatrick was five under for his round with three holes remaining at Marco Simone GC when play was suspended due to bad light, following lightning delaying the start to the opening round earlier in the day.
The US Open champion picked up shots at the second and seventh, before continuing his bogey-free start to the week and moving ahead with three consecutive birdies from the 11th.
Fitzpatrick will return at 7.30am local time (6.30am GMT) on Friday to complete his opening round, with the Englishman resuming with a one-shot advantage over a group of eight players - including McIlroy - on four under.
"It was really annoying," Fitzpatrick said after being unable to finish. "I was trying to push us on as fast as possible, but the rest of the field are obviously playing a bit slower. Especially when you're having a good round, you just want to keep going, but it is what it is."
Joost Luiten and Alvaro Quiros are a shot off the pace with five and two holes left respectively, while McIlroy lived up to his billing as pre-tournament by making an eagle and three birdies over his last seven holes to card a four-under 67.
McIlroy nearly holed out from the rough on the tenth - his opening hole of the day - only to bogey the next, struggle to a three-putt par at the 12th and cancel out a close-range birdie at the 16th by missing a five-footer to save par at the 17th.
Last week's BMW PGA Championship runner-up holed a 20-footer to avoid another bogey at the 18th before a hole-out eagle from the third fairway sparked a charge up the leaderboard, with a 12-foot birdie at the fifth followed by back-to-back gains from eighth.
Asked what he was thinking midway through his round, McIlroy told Sky Sports: "Probably that I shouldn't have stayed up so late last night! I felt like I was still half asleep playing that front nine.
"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. I can't complain, I played the more difficult nine well today and the easier nine not so well. I just need to tidy up a few things going into the next few days."
Eddie Pepperell, Scott Jamieson, Antoine Rozner, Adri Arnaus and Gavin Green are also all on four under, while defending champion Nicolai Hojgaard sits two off the pace and captain Luke Donald is three back with four holes of his round remaining.
"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 me in some are hard positions off the tee," Hojgaard said. "But most of all, it's a good start to the defence."
Viktor Hovland, playing alongside Fitzpatrick and among the other players making the trip to Rome ahead of the venue hosting next year's Ryder Cup, is one under after 15 holes and among the players returning to finish on Friday.
Watch the DS Automobiles Italian Open throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage continues Friday with Featured Groups from 7.30am on Sky Sports Golf, ahead of full coverage from 12.30pm.