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Italian Open: Birdie blitz sends Gareth Maybin in right direction in Turin

By Keith White

Gareth Maybin blasted a terrific five-under par 67 to leave himself just one shot off the pace after an eventful first day of the Italian Open.

The Ulsterman, currently 124th in the Race to Dubai standings, is hoping to retain his European Tour card.

And his spirits will certainly have been lifted following a round of six birdies and only one bogey at Circolo Golf Torino.

The 33-year-old finished the day one behind crowd favourite Francesco Molinari and Austria's Bernd Wiesberger.

Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington both hit rounds of 72.

Last year's runner-up David Higgins shot a disappointing opening 78, which was also Peter Lawrie's finishing total.

Stephen Gallacher may be the only player who controls his Ryder Cup destiny, but it was Molinari who did most to boost his chances of making the European team yesterday.

On the course where he started playing golf aged eight, Molinari carded a flawless six-under-par 66 to share the lead with Wiesberger.

And that meant Gallacher, who needs to finish in the top two to overtake Ulsterman Graeme McDowell and claim the final automatic qualifying place, found himself six shots off the pace following an erratic opening round 72.

European captain Paul McGinley admitted Molinari is "very much in my mind" for one of the three wild cards he will announce on Tuesday, with the man himself thinking he needs to win on Sunday to make a third consecutive cup appearance at Gleneagles next month.

"I had a chat with Paul when he got here and I think the good thing is that he knows what I can bring to the team because he has seen me as vice-captain on the last two teams," said Molinari, whose halved match with Tiger Woods at Medinah in 2012 ensured Europe won outright for the seventh time in the last nine contests.

"But it's up to me to prove that I really want it and am playing well enough. I think anything less than a win would not be enough so I have to aim for that."

Gallacher headed straight to the range after a round featuring four birdies and four bogeys, the 39-year-old Scot squandering a good start after almost holing his approach to his second hole of the day.

"I'm a bit disappointed because I threw away a couple of shots midway through my round, but it's okay for the first day and I am only one good score away from the top of the leaderboard," said Gallacher, who lives just 35 miles from Gleneagles.

"I know I have to finish first or second, that's not going to change, so I'm not putting any pressure on myself.

"Once you get out on the course you just try to birdie every hole. That's the easy part. It's when you finish you think about the Ryder Cup."

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