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Page last updated at 18:51 GMT, Thursday, 15 October 2009 19:51 UK

Molinari takes lead in Portugal

FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD:
-9 F Molinari (Ita) -7 A Forsyth (Sco), J Rose (Eng), C Schwartzel (SA) -6 B Dredge (Wal), M Foster (Eng), S Khan (Eng), P Martin (Spa), M Vibe-Hastrup (Den), L Westwood (Eng) Selected others: -5 O Wilson (Eng) -4 B Curtis (US), C Montgomerie (Sco), P Price (Wal), R Goosen (SA) -3 D Clarke (NI), P Harrington (Ire), R McIlory (NI)


Francesco Molinari
Molinari had four birdies in a row from the 11th hole

Italy's Francesco Molinari fired a nine-under 63 to lead the Portugal Masters by two shots after round one.

Molinari carded eight birdies and an eagle to head Alastair Forsyth, Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel in Vilamoura.

Wales' Bradley Dredge was one behind after the 17th hole but found water and ended up in a group at six under alongside England's Lee Westwood.

Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie found some form with a four-under 68, while Padraig Harrington carded 69.

Molinari picked up five shots in his first five holes and had four straight birdies from the 11th to equal the lowest round of his Tour career, set in the Irish Open in May.

But he will be mindful of avoiding a repeat of his disqualification at that tournament after he signed for the wrong score in his second round.

The US-based Rose, who is playing just his second event in Europe since last October, also shot eight birdies in his 65.

Two years ago Rose won the Order of Merit and at sixth in the world was Europe's top player.

But with only one top-10 finish since he was runner-up to Rory McIlroy in Dubai in February, he is 58th on the money list and has slipped to 62nd on the world rankings.

Falling outside the world's top 50 means he could miss out on majors and world championships next season, which will make it harder to remain a member of both the American and European Tours.

606: DEBATE

"I really want to, and the Ryder Cup next year is a big drawcard," said the 29-year-old.

"But at the end of the day I've got to do what's good for me and my family.

"Florida is my base - I can't say with hand on my heart it's home, but from a practical point of view that's where home is.

"Dropping out of the top 50 puts me in a precarious position and my goal is to get back in it. Then I can play the schedule I want to."

Dredge eagled 17 to reach eight under but he took on the greenside lake on the 18th with his second shot and compiled a double-bogey six to drop him into a six-man pack which included early leader Westwood, Mark Foster, Simon Khan, Pablo Martin and Mads Vibe-Hastrup.

Westwood had to contend with a bee sting during his round but still kept up his hopes of a first win of the season.

Victory would take the 36-year-old past McIlroy in the European Tour Race to Dubai rankings, and he is keen to finish top of Europe's money list for the first time since 2000.

"If I don't win this year it will be disappointing and if I don't win the Order of Merit it will be, too," Westwood said. "For me it's all about winning, second's no good. It's about time to start winning."

Oliver Wilson is in a group one back, while Montgomerie, who went out in 32, was in a large group that included 2003 Open champion Ben Curtis of America and two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen.

Northern Irish duo Darren Clarke and McIlroy ended three under alongside three-time major winner Harrington.



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