Stockholm, Sweden – Coming off his fourth European Tour victory last weekend, Matteo Manassero fired an opening-round 66 on Thursday to grab a share of the lead after the first round of the Nordea Masters.
Manassero was joined at minus-6 by Pablo Larrazabal, who has six top-20 finishes in his last seven tour starts.
Alexander Noren, the 2011 champion, and Fredrik Andersson Hed lead the Swedish contingent as they are tied for third at minus-5. They stand alongside Chris Lloyd, Simon Wakefield and 2009 runner-up Jamie Donaldson.
Alejandro Canizares, who shared fourth last week at Wentworth, headlines a group of five players tied for eighth at 4-under 68 on the Stadium Course at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club.
Manassero, who became the youngest-ever winner of the BMW PGA Championship last week, started his opening round on the 10th tee and carried over his hot play from last week. He birdied the first two holes.
The young Italian took advantage of Nos. 12 and 13, both par-5s, as he birdied both to quickly climb to minus-4. He wasn't done either, as he made it five in a row with a birdie at the 14th.
At the par-5 15th, Manassero left himself eight feet for birdie and he poured that in to made it six straight. His run ended with a par at the 16th, then he tripped to a bogey on the 17th.
"I've never started that well. It was a great start. I was making putts and to start like that was strange because I'm not used to it," Manassero admitted.
Around the turn, Manassero birdied the par-5 first from 10 feet out to regain the lead at minus-6. He missed a par putt from inside five feet at the fifth, but got that right back with a kick-in birdie at the sixth. Manassero parred his last three holes to share the lead.
"I've been tired, but I woke up and I felt good. It's a tough course when the wind picks up, so I think every afternoon is going to be hard," said Manassero, who was accurate as the wind picked up in the afternoon.
Larrazabal also started on the back nine and drained three birdies in a 4-hole span from the 12th to move to 3-under. After a pair of pars, he birdied the 18th to make the turn two behind Manassero.
The 30-year-old Spaniard birdied the first to get within one. At the par-4 fifth, Larrazabal rolled in a long birdie effort to gain a share of the lead.
Larrazabal stumbled to a bogey at the seventh, but closed with a birdie on the ninth to finish alongside Manassero at 6-under.
"I played great, I was 5-under after 10. I made birdies on the par-5s and held my score," stated Larrazabal. "It wasn't easy. The golf course is playing okay this morning, but you can make a double or triple bogey. I played safe when I had to and more aggressive when I could."
Noren's 67 was the best score in the afternoon.
NOTES: If Manassero goes on to win, he would be the first player to win back- to-back European Tour events since Branden Grace, who did so at the beginning of the 2012 season ... Six of the last 10 winners are in the field. Last year's winner Lee Westwood is skipping the tournament as he is playing the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament.