Gareth Maybin is hoping the confidence gleaned from playing alongside triple Major winning Ernie Els will lead to a long awaited breakthrough victory on the Race to Dubai Tour.
Maybin carded a three-under par 69 to head the Irish contingent on day one of the BMW Italian Open in Turin.
It left Maybin trailing just two strokes behind the leading foursome of Scotland's Paul Lawrie, Australia's Marcus Fraser and the England pair of Graeme Storm and Robert Rock.
The Italian event is the 29-year old Ballyclare golfer's first since sharing second place in last month's Ballantine's Championship in Korea and a result that all but assured Maybin he retains automatic Tour membership for the 2011 season.
However, it was during that final round on Jeju Island that Maybin was partnered with Els, and despite outscoring the South African by two strokes, it was an experience Maybin says was invaluable.
“I just took a lot of confidence out of playing alongside Ernie on that last day in Korea and hopefully that will help me in the future,” said Maybin.
“What I learnt most that day was Ernie's temperament because he was just so relaxed and if he made a bogey or whatever he wasn't fazed.
“He just got on with it and he usually came back with a birdie.
“I've played with guys like Lee Westwood before and a few of the other big guys, but Ernie would have to be definitely the best that I’ve played with, given the form he was in.
“That's why I am out here to play alongside players like that and on a Sunday afternoon, as well.
“To have finished second in Korea and to do something that I did at the start of last year, just frees me up for the rest of the year to the extent I can go on and win my first event.
“I'm again pretty right as far as the money list goes, so hopefully I can start challenging for a couple of Tour titles.
“I've now put myself in that position twice now so all I can do is be patient and wait for it to happen.”
Maybin's BMW Italian Open first round was a mix of five birdies including two gems at his sixth and eighth holes where he rolled in 30-footers.
Gary Murphy carded a five over par 77 while a two-hour delay to the start of play due to rain meant Darren Clarke and County Down's Simon Thornton did not get to complete their rounds.
Michael Hoey withdrew after eight holes with a respiratory complaint while Italian sensation Matteo Manessaro carded a 70 on his pro debut.