New ball gives Torrance Open joy

Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance shot a blistering seven under par 65 to share the lead in the Italian Open at Is Molas.

Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance shot a blistering seven under par 65 to share the lead in the Italian Open at Is Molas.

And he put his good play down the use of a new type of golf ball.

Torrance has started playing with the Titleist ball, which he claims adds 30 yards to his drives.

Also topping the leaderboard are Irishman Eamonn Darcy, England's Van Phillips and France's Benoit Teilleria.

Torrance said: "I used the new Titleist ball last weekend and I was like a dog with two tails.

"It's given me 20 or 30 yards more distance with the driver and even more control with my irons. It's delicious.

"My only bogey of the day came on the 17th when I hit a drive 355 yards into a ditch that runs across the fairway.

"I played tremendously in the German Masters, as good as I have for a number of years, and was full of confidence but then got wet going to the clubhouse on the Sunday when it was rained off and my back completely locked up.

"I couldn't move, couldn't go to Las Vegas to play there and even now there is a bit of a twinge but it's virtually gone."

Torrance, starting on the 10th, went out in two under par 35 and came back in just 30 helped by an eagle and three birdies.

A high finish is the target to qualify for the lucrative Volvo Masters in Spain next week but a return to playing duties in the Ryder Cup is definitely off the agenda.

"The team looks fantastic already," he added. "I could play with what I've got now.

"I still have 46 names to look at in my little black book. Maybe I should make it 47 with myself!"

Lee Westwood had the unusual experience of being shunted firmly out of the spotlight.

Westwood has won six times already on the European Tour this season and is well placed for a record seventh after an opening 67, five under par, in Sardinia.

But the 27-year-old world number five was outshone by playing partner Torrance, some 20 years his senior.

Seven players were tied a shot further back including English duo Ian Poulter and Jeremy Robinson - Robinson in need of a good week to retain his touring card.

Torrance is playing a limited European Tour schedule to fit in with his duties as skipper at The Belfry next year, but described himself still "as keen as mustard" to play competitively after discovering the benefits of a new ball.

Westwood said: "When the longest putt you hole is four feet and you shoot 67 you have to be happy but I'm pretty disgusted with myself for leaving so many shots out there.

"I hit 16 greens and had about 33 putts. I hit it close a lot and missed a lot, I think there was a goalkeeper in there today. Hopefully when I do start making some putts I might start making some significant progress but it's certainly not out of contention."

Whatever happens this week, it has already been a time of celebration in the Westwood household after the announcement that he and wife Laurae are expecting their first child next April.

The birth could clash with the Masters at Augusta but for Westwood there is no choice. "I will be with Laurae whatever is on. If it falls that week I'll not be at the Masters."

Meanwhile Darcy finished with three straight birdies in his 65 to give him a fighting chance of retaining his playing card.

The 48-year-old, one of Europe's victorious 1987 Ryder Cup team, lies 144th on the money list and needs to win about £30,000 to get into the top 115.

"The course is there for the taking so I'm not surprised, I'm delighted," Darcy said. "I have been hitting the ball pretty good the last month, I should have been fourth last week (he came joint ninth) and it's just a pity I've left it a bit late.

"I need to finish top three to retain my card which is a tall order."

Darcy was not the only one battling to save his card. Robinson, who had seven birdies and just one dropped shot in his 66, lies 139th on the money list and needs a good week to get into the top 115.

Two years ago he ignored medical advice to continue playing in the qualifying school with a bad back and birdied the last hole to secure his card and in 1999 he secured the 115th and final card.

Of the others battling for their lives, former tour winners Paul Eales and Russell Claydon had 69 and 72 respectively while Justin Rose carded a 70.