Turin, Italy (SportsNetwork.com) - Francesco Molinari and Bernd Wiesberger fired matching 6-under 66s on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Italian Open.
Molinari, who is looking to win his national title for the second time after emerging victorious at this event back in 2006, is a three-time winner on the European Tour and is one of three Italians within the top 10 through one round at Circolo Golf Torino.
Molinari is also looking to play his way into consideration for one of Paul McGinley's captain's pick on the European Ryder Cup team.
"I had a chat with Paul when he got here and I think the good thing is that he knows what I can bring to the team because he has seen me as vice-captain on the last two teams," Molinari said. "But it's up to me to prove that I really want it and am playing well enough. I think anything less than a win would not be enough so I have to aim for that."
Wiesberger, who was in the final pairing with Rory McIlroy at the PGA Championship earlier this month, has won twice on tour, with both wins coming in 2012. Wiesberger carded a final-round 74 at the PGA Championship and tied for 15th place.
"The first three days at Valhalla gave me a lot of confidence knowing I could get into that position and be in the last group in a major," said Wiesberger. "I probably should have tried to make more of a move in the final round but I didn't drive the ball that well that day and couldn't really get it going."
American John Hahn, Gareth Maybin, Richie Ramsay, Hennie Otto and Richard Bland are all one shot back of the leaders at 5-under 67.
Italians Francesco Laporta and Edoardo Raffaele Lipparelli, an amateur, are tied for eighth at 4-under 68. They are joined there by Gary Stal, Felipe Aguilar, Morten Orum Madsen, Darren Fichardt and Maximilian Kieffer.
This event is the last chance for players to collect points for chance to be on Europe's Ryder Cup team. Stephen Gallacher, who is the only player in the field who can clinch an automatic qualification spot on team Europe, is six shots back at even-par 72 after the first round. Gallacher needs to finish within the top two in order to clinch a spot on the team.
Molinari, beginning his round on the front nine, came out on fire with back- to-back birdies. The Italian cooled off from there through the rest of his front nine as he made the turn with seven straight pars from No. 3.
Following his eighth straight par on 10, Molinari got back to making birdies with a gain at the par-4 11th. Molinari knocked in two more pars before draining another pair of birdies at 14 and 15, getting him to minus-5 on the day.
Molinari finished up day one with two pars at 16 and 17 followed by a birdie at the last to tie him atop the leaderboard with Wiesberger at minus-6.
Wiesberger, playing in the group right behind Molinari's, also started off strong with three birdies on his first four holes. Also like Molinari, Wiesberger finished his front nine with a string of pars.
After another par on 10, Wiesberger poured in back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12. His sixth and final birdie of the day at 15 had Wiesberger in sole possession of first place at the time. Wiesberger rounded out his bogey-free round with three straight pars to end tied with Molinari.
Ramsay and Otto both had bogey-free rounds and made five birdies, while Hahn, Maybin and Bland scattered six birdies around one bogey each.
Gallacher played well on the back nine, his front, with two birdies and a bogey, but he tripped to three bogeys on the front nine to go along with two more gains as he finished at even par.
"I'm a bit disappointed because I threw away a couple of shots midway through my round, but it's OK for the first day and I am only one good score away from the top of the leaderboard," Gallacher said. "I know I have to finish first or second, that's not going to change, so I'm not putting any pressure on myself. Once you get out on the course you just try to birdie every hole. That's the easy part. It's when you finish you think about the Ryder Cup."
NOTES: Molinari's last victory on tour came at the 2012 Open de Espana ... Wiesberger's two wins in 2012 came at the Ballantine's Championship and the Lyoness Open ... Gallacher, who won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic earlier this season, entered this week 11th in Ryder Cup world points and 12th on the European points list.