Briggs takes lead

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The Independent Online
The little-known Briton, Neal Briggs, hit a seven-under-par 65, including six birdies and an eagle, to claim the lead in the Italian Open after the first round in Milan yesterday.

Briggs said he owed his good score to keeping his head still on the greens. "I had a putting lesson from my partner, John Hawksworth, in the pairs event in Paris last week," Briggs said. "John kept whingeing at me for moving my head when I putted so I concentrated on keeping it still today and it worked."

Jose Rivero, of Spain, and the Italian Michele Reale are second on 66, with Rivero winning a Nissan Maxima car for holing in one at the 17th with a seven-iron.

Rivero was only two under with two holes to play, but had his ace and also an eagle on the last hole to finish six under. Reale, hardly known on the European Tour, made his score with a six-under-par 30 on the back nine after going to the turn in a level-par 36.

One shot behind Rivero and Reale are the Irishman Ronan Rafferty, the Italian Marco Durante and another Briton, Malcolm Mackenzie. Rafferty had the most consistent round of the day: 13 pars, five birdies and not a single bogey. Sam Torrance, of Scotland, who is suffering from a left leg injury, still managed to shoot a three-under-par 69.

ITALIAN OPEN (Milan) Leading first-round scores (GB unless stated): 65 N Briggs; 66 J Rivero (Sp), M Reale (It); 67 R Rafferty, M Mackenzie, M Durante (It); 68 R Willison, S Dodd, E Canonica (It), S Cage, S McAllister, C Rocca (It), A Coltart, J Sandelin (Swe), A Oldcorn, M Litton; 69 M Roberts, V Fernandez (Arg), S Tinning (Den), C Cevaer (Fr), G Emerson, S Torrance, P Broadhurst, J Robson, G Orr, J M Carriles (Sp).