Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin scorched into the first round lead thanks to a course record, seven under par 64 in the BMW Italian Open at Royal Park near Turin.

The Ulsterman, 28, has a three stroke lead over Scot Richie Ramsay, France's Raphaël Jacquelin and England's Marcus Higley, while American John Daly would have been joint second as well but for two closing bogeys.

Maybin came close to winning on just the seventh start of his European Tour career last Decemeber but missed eight foot putt to take the South African Open Championship and then lost a play-off to Richard Sterne.

"I was very disappointed at the time - any time you're beaten in a play-off you're not going to be too chuffed," he said. "But I went home for Christmas and reflected on it. I looked at the names below me and a lot of them were highly ranked."

Among those Maybin finished ahead of were compatriot Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman.

A graduate of last year's Challenge Tour, Maybin turned in 34 to trail clubhouse leader Richie Ramsay by two shots but then followed birdied at the 10th and 12th by holing a 115-yard wedge for an eagle two and then grabbed another birdie at the par-three 15th.

He bogeyed the 16th after bunkering his approach but recovered by hitting a five-iron to six feet on the demanding 507-yard par four last.

Gary Murphy birdied two of his last four holes for a one-under par 70 with Jonny Caldwell and Mick McGeady carding level par 71s.

Struggling off the tee on a tight course, Darren Clarke had a three over par 74 that began in horrific fashion with four consecutive bogeys.

The Ulsterman rallied by playing his next nine holes in three under par but then undid much of his good work with bogeys at the 14th and 17th.