Dunne chasing super six at head of affairs in Italian Open
Paul Dunne spearheaded the Irish challenge in the €6 million ($7m) Italian Open at Golf Club Milano where six players shared the lead, each shooting a spectacular 64.
The hot scoring in almost ideal golfing conditions reflected the strength of the field, all chasing a share of the multi-million-dollar prize fund in the fifth event of the elite Rolex Series tournaments.
Dunne carded a very respectable four-under-par 67 in a round that included four successive birdies from holes 12 through 15, and still found himself in a group of 14 players tied for 17th place.
The super six at the top - Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Alexander Bjork, reigning champion Francesco Molinari, Jamie Donaldson, Eddie Pepperell, and Matt Wallace - were ahead by just a shot from South Africa's George Coetzee and An Byeong Hun of South Korea.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia was one of eight players who shot 66 for five-under.
Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell each carded 69, two-under par, while Pádraig Harrington needs to hit the birdie trail in earnest today if he is to make the cut after a 73.
Harrington arrived in Milan on Monday but his clubs went astray and he did not get them until Tuesday afternoon.
Harrington told his Facebook followers: "I got here on Monday morning but wasn't able to do any practice as my golf clubs didn't make it onto my flight.
"It was Tuesday afternoon before I got them, but I wasn't too stressed as I know the course and was in the Wednesday pro-am.
"They turned up just in time for me to play nine holes with Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne, although seeing as Shane won the skins I'm wishing they hadn't.
"The course is in much better condition this year than last. Last year we had a terrible week of rain and its took its toll on the course. This year the forecast is great, no rain and very little wind."
Huge galleries attended the tournament. Home favourite Francesco Molinari, who won the Italian Open in 2006 and 2016, got the lion's share of the attention, but the fans' fervour did not distract him.
"I won it my second year as a professional, so I've always enjoyed the attention. I don't know, it just seems to have a good effect on my game. I think I probably focus more. Obviously there's a little more expectations around. It's a bit like playing in a Major or something like that.
"But yeah, I did well last year, so hopefully I'll do it again," he said.