Sjoholm's 64 leads Italian Open

Sweden's Joel Sjoholm fired an 8-under 64 on Thursday to take the first-round lead of the Italian Open at Royal Park I Roveri.

Lee Slattery posted a 7-under 65 in the afternoon wave to grab second place on his own.

David Howell, Richard McEvoy, Garth Mulroy, Keith Horne, Richard Bland, Victor Dubuisson and Gareth Maybin are knotted in third place at 6-under 66.

Sjoholm didn't shoot the kind of 64 you'd expect. Several times he was erratic off the tee, but it all added it up to an 8-under round and the first-round lead.

"I hit it basically everywhere. I was in the woods a lot and made some funny birdies today," said Sjoholm. "It was a big, fighting 64 rather than a solid 64, but it's great fun to be 8-under."

Sjoholm birdied the first hole, then made the first of his birdies from the trees at No. 3. An errant 3-wood landed in trouble, but he was able to get his second to the fringe and he poured in the birdie effort.

Sjoholm added two more birdies on the front side to make the turn at 4-under 32.

The Swede flew out of the gate on the back nine. After a par at the 10th, Sjoholm birdied three in a row, including another tree birdie at 13. He hit a spectacular second to 20 feet at the hole and drained the putt for his seventh birdie of the round.

Sjoholm parred his next four after the birdie at 13, but closed with a birdie at the par-5 18th to take the round-one lead.

"I know that I have to play better golf tomorrow; I'm not going to make these sort of birdies four rounds in a row," admitted Sjoholm, who is winless on the European Tour.

It's been a rough couple of weeks for Sjoholm. It's been more like a rough few months. His last top 10 came at the BMW International Open in June and he's missed the cut the last two weeks.

"I want revenge," joked Sjoholm. "The last two weeks I actually played quite good golf.

"Normally when I score well, I have to putt well. The last few weeks I've putted quite poorly and missed the cut by one stroke. Both times I felt like I had a good chance to make the cut, but you have to forget and keep moving on."

Slattery recorded four birdies on the opening side, then parred six in a row around the turn. He finished in style with three birdies in his last four holes.

"It's a place I always play well for some reason," said Slattery. "I think I've had two 65s round here before. Last week in Holland, although it's a great golf course, I tend to struggle on it, whereas this week I can see the shots. It's nice to open the shoulders a little bit, which you can do here because the rough is not thick."

Raphael Jacquelin, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Johan Edfors, Alex Cejka, Michael Jonzon, Shiv Kapur, Sam Little, Bradley Dredge, Richard Sterne and Edouard Dubois share 10th at 5-under-par 67.

Francesco Molinari, who made his first European Tour title his national championship in 2006, shot a 4-under 68 and is tied for 20th.

Molinari had two Ryder Cup teammates in the field Thursday. Martin Kaymer had a 2-under 70 and Nicolas Colsaerts managed a 1-under 71.

NOTES: Colin Montgomerie withdrew on Thursday with a calf injury...European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal carded a 2-under 70 on Thursday...Defending champion Robert Rock also had a 70 in round one.