Storm puts injury and poor form behind him to lead Italian Open

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The Independent Online

England's Graeme Storm will seek forgiveness for missing his daughter's second birthday after claiming a share of the clubhouse lead in the rain-delayed Italian Open.

Storm carded an opening round of 67, five under par, to join fellow Englishman Robert Rock and Australian Marcus Fraser at the top of the leaderboard in Turin, with play set to continue until 9pm local time to compensate for a two-hour delay in the morning.

The 32-year-old former British amateur champion from Hartlepool had not planned on playing this week, but a shoulder injury, which contributed to his worst start to a season since 2005, forced his hand. "I thought if I played well in Seville last week I would not play as it was my daughter Grace's second birthday on Wednesday, but I missed the cut and here I am," explained Storm, winner of the French Open in 2007. "I shot 67 so hopefully she'll forgive me in time."

That missed cut in Seville was his fifth in eight events in 2010, although the former Walker Cup winner admitted he should never have played three of those tournaments on account of injury. Storm added: "This is the worst start to a season since I came back on tour. I was effectively out for four months with a rotator cuff injury in my left shoulder – bizarrely suffered playing water polo – and I'm just trying to get some form ahead of the big tournaments this summer. I injured myself in December but it was not diagnosed until I went to Abu Dhabi in January. I played three weeks in the Middle East and should never have played."

Storm almost did not play in Turin either after feeling "horrendous" when walking the Royal Park I Roveri course yesterday when rain washed out the pre-tournament pro-am.

"I felt horrendous after walking the course, I just sat down for an hour afterwards and then went to see the doctor and he told me I had a viral infection, some fluid in the inner ear," he added. "To shoot five under was a great score, I didn't expect it so maybe that's why, maybe I was relaxed.

"I played the front nine great but from the 11th to the 15th felt I was just trying to hang onto the score and dropped two shots before a good shot on the 15th perked me up."

Two more good shots on the 18th set up an eagle three to finish, although Storm admitted: "I pushed my second to the 18th a bit, I forgot the water was so near the green but knocked it to 12ft and holed it."

Fraser is seeking back-to-back victories after claiming the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea a fortnight ago, while Rock is still looking for his maiden Tour victory after finishing runner-up three times last year.

Home attention was focused on the professional debut of Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, who joined the paid ranks this week following a superb amateur career which saw him win the British Amateur Championship in 2009, finish 13th in the Open at Turnberry a month later and then 36th in the Masters at Augusta last month. And the 17-year-old did not disappoint with a typically composed round of 70, two under par, outscoring playing partner and European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie by six shots.

"He was very impressive, to do that as a 17-year-old," Montgomerie said of a playing partner almost 30 years his junior. "He has a good future ahead of him and I wish him all the best. My golf is non-explainable."

Manassero added: "It was a good round, I played steady for 18 holes. I really liked how I played. I was a little nervous, like always in the big tournaments, but fortunately I'm getting used to it.I don't want to rewind any part of my game. I didn't putt that well but I didn't have many chances so I like the way I played and hopefully it will stay like this."