Gareth Maybin likes Circolo Golf Torino & Royal Park G&CC to give the BMW Italian Open venue its full title.
Last season, the Ballyclare man opened with an eight under par 64 en route to a share of eighth place in his rookie season.
Still searching for his maiden victory, he got the ball rolling with a three under par 69 to share ninth place behind clubhouse leaders Graeme Storm, Robert Rock, Paul Lawrie and Marcus Fraser.
The start of play was delayed by two hours because of torrential rain. And while Maybin did not strike the ball as well as he did in Korea two weeks ago, where he tied for second place in the Ballantine’s Championship, he was happy to take just 26 putts in a round that featured five birdies and two bogeys.
“I’m playing very solid,” Maybin said. “I’m putting great, which is something I worked on last week, so that’s encouraging because I didnt really drive it great and iron play was very mediocre.
“But half the battle it utting well, so fortunately I am doing that. Any time you shoot 69 you have got to be happy.”
Maybin was tempted to take another week off following his exertions on Jeju Island but he’s glad he made the short hop from Antrim to Turin.
He said: “Last week was a bit of a blur to be honest. Jet lag was pretty severe. I wasn’t going to play here but after a few days I started getting a little bored and so I came out.
“I have good memories of last year and the course is in phenomenal condition considering the weather. I didn’t think we’d play today. The greens are quite firm for the amount of rain we have had but the fairways are quite soft so the big hitters are going to have a huge advantage carrying the ball as far as they do in the air.”
World No 122 Maybin is now ranked ahead of compatriot Darren Clarke (145), who had three bogeys and an eagle three at the 11th in a one over 73.
Rookie Simon Thornton was one over par through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day due to lack of light.
As for Gary Murphy, who had to go to the Q-School last year to ensure limited starts on tour this season, the Kilkenny man continues to struggle.
He opened with a five over par 77 and has made just two cuts from nine starts so far this year with his best finish a share of 43rd at the South African Open in December.
Belfast’s Michael Hoey was forced to withdraw through illness having played his first eight holes in eight over par.
Italy’s Matteo Manassero marked his professional debut by carding a two under par 70 with Ulsterman Ryan McGuigan carrying out the caddie duties.
Manassero outscored playing partner Colin Montgomerie (76) and Rhys Davies (73) to share 19th place.