The 2013 Italian Open features a three-way tie for the lead after Thursday's Round 1 action. Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts is the clear headliner, though Ricardo Gonzalez and Maximilian Kieffer matched his score of seven-under 65.
Those latter two names aren't nearly as well-known to golf fans, but Colsaerts is an unmistakeable star who is looking to get back on track after several months of shaky form.
Following an overview of the leaderboard, let's take a closer look at Colsaerts, along with a couple of other notables in the hunt.
One is a native former champion, and another is an underrated but consistent and emerging golfer—all of whom have a shot at winning at Golf Club Torino this week.
|Position||Player||To Par (Score)|
|T1||Nicolas Colsaerts||-7 (65)|
|T1||Ricardo Gonzalez||-7 (65)|
|T1||Maximilian Kieffer||-7 (65)|
|4||Marcus Fraser||-6 (66)|
|T5||David Higgins||-5 (67)|
|T5||Steve Webster||-5 (67)|
|T7||Francesco Molinari||-4 (68)|
|T7||James Kingston||-4 (68)|
|T7||JB Hansen||-4 (68)|
|T7||Seve Benson||-4 (68)|
Nicolas Colsaerts (-7)
The Belgian Bomber was off to an inauspicious start, bogeying his opening hole at No. 10. Then something clicked.
Well, more like everything did.
Colsaerts reeled off six consecutive birdies and added another at the 18th hole to fire a 30 on the back nine. It was an absolute blitz that Colsaerts desperately needed, and although he cooled off with eight pars and a closing birdie on the front, he still placed himself squarely atop the leaderboard.
The 30-year-old was ill this past week and credited his mother for nursing him back to health, per EuropeanTour.com:
Nothing beats being back home with your mum looking after you...I was sitting at home on the couch watching the golf from Holland and was quite happy to be looked after by my mum on the couch. It was the best place to be for me.
After bursting onto the scene at the Ryder Cup last year as a captain's pick and putting up sporadically good rounds in majors, it has been a struggle for the promising talent since then.
He has six top 10s in 2013 but entered this event having missed two of his past four cuts, and had to withdraw from the KLM Open. Getting his first win of the year would be a huge boost.
Francesco Molinari (-4)
Having won this event at a different venue in 2006 for his first European Tour victory, this stop on the circuit has to hold a special significance to Molinari.
It's still really early, but the Italian has put himself in prime position to threaten for the trophy in his native tournament.
Molinari eagled the reachable par-five No. 1, his 10th hole of the round, and stayed relatively steady throughout the day, finding 11 of 14 fairways in regulation and only missing four greens.
That type of ball-striking is what Molinari has made his living on. If he can find a way to hole a few more putts, there is no reason he shouldn't be in the thick of things down the stretch on Sunday.
There is an innate pressure of performing well in front of a favorable home gallery, but it's something Molinari has proven capable of before. With two additional tour triumphs under his belt since his breakthrough, this could be another special week for Molinari in Italy.
Bernd Wiesberger (-3)
Who will win the Italian Open?
Few casual fans are aware of Wiesberger's existence, yet he's quickly becoming a factor on the world stage.
Wiesberger missed the cut at the PGA Championship in August, which snapped a consecutive-cuts streak that began at the Portugal Masters last October. It speaks to the Austrian's steadiness, and is a testament to how bright his career can be as he's only 27 years old.
In Thursday's round of 69, he had to frequently get the ball out of the rough in hitting just eight fairways, but he managed to still find the surface 15 out of 18 times.
On the three occasions in which Wiesberger missed the green, he was able to get up and down from the bunker.
He is sitting just outside the top 10, so watch for Wiesberger to make a move and hang around on the weekend as he so frequently has over the past year or so.