Peter Lawrie of Ireland led the Sicilian Open by a stroke after shooting an 8-under-par 64 in the opening round on Thursday.
Lawrie, whose only win on the European Tour came at the 2008 Spanish Open, made nine birdies offset by a bogey on the par-4 13th at the Verdura Golf and Spa Resort.
”I’ve got off to a bit of a slow start this season, so I need to give things a bit of a kick and get going again,” Lawrie said. ”It was more determination than anything.”
It was feared that winds coming in off the Mediterranean would make things difficult for those teeing off in the afternoon, but those worries were allayed by the likes of Lawrie and Jamie Donaldson of Wales.
Donaldson, attempting to win his first tournament in 249 attempts, continued his fine form of late by making five birdies and an eagle in a 65 to move into a share of second with Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark and Tano Goya of Argentina.
Donaldson shot a final round of 11 under to tie the course record in Morocco last week.
Kjeldsen, who hasn’t won on the tour in four years like Lawrie, holed six birdies and an eagle in the calmer morning conditions.
”The eagle on 14 got me going,” Kjeldsen said. ”I made a birdie straight after and got it close on 17 and before I knew it I was 4 under.”
Italian teenager Matteo Manassero saved level par with birdies on two of his last three holes.
Manassero three-putted to bogey No. 11, his second hole, and bogeyed the next after driving into a bunker.
”At least at level par I feel I am not out of it,” he said. ”The way I fought back showed how determined I am to do well this week.”
Defending champion Raphael Jacquelin carded 68, Rich Beem bogeyed his last hole to finish with a 69, and fellow major winner John Daly posted 71.