Karlberg on song again at soggy Monza

A closing eagle ensured defending champion Rikard Karlberg topped the leaderboard at the end of a truncated opening day at the Italian Open.

Torrential rain and the threat of lightning caused lengthy delays on Thursday at Golf Club Milano, ensuring a number of players were unable to even take to the course.

The high-profile grouping of Martin Kaymer, Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick, three of the seven European Ryder Cup team members in action this week, finally teed off just before play was suspended due to darkness.

Yet half of the field were able to complete 18 holes and many took advantage of vastly improved afternoon conditions and a course softened by the earlier downpours.

Home favourite Francesco Molinari was bogey free in a 65 that left him second, one shot off the lead, while Robert Karlsson and Adrian Otaegui also impressed to be a stroke further back.

Yet the star performer of the day was Karlberg, who followed up six birdies with a solitary bogey on the eighth, his penultimate hole, before bouncing back in style.

A fine approach to the ninth left the Swede with an 18-foot eagle putt, which he drained to complete a round of 64.

"As good as it gets - it was a great round," said Karlberg. "It was a long day and standing over the last shot into the green there on the ninth I felt so tired, but I told myself 'it's just one more shot' and it was good to execute it as well as I did."

With a significant number of players now playing catch-up after Thursday's delays, Karlberg is set to begin his second round later than initially planned.

"It's sad it's not a proper flow, but I can sleep in tomorrow, play with the kids a bit and enjoy some time with the family before coming here. It shouldn't be any problem," he added.

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