STOCKHOLM — Matteo Manassero birdied his first six holes en route to a 6-under 66 and a share of the lead on the first day of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.
Manassero, who won the BMW PGA Championship last week, is tied with Pablo Larrazabal of Spain on the Bro Hof Slott course.
“I’ve never started that well in my career, that just seemed a little strange,” the Italian said.
“It was a guess how I would wake up this morning as I had been pretty tired up until last night, but I felt good and I could see that from the first tee when I hit good shots.”
Manassero is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the late Seve Ballesteros.
He wore green pants in honor of the Spanish great for Sunday’s victory, his fourth on the European Tour at the age of 20 years and 37 days. Ballesteros was 20 years and three months old when he captured a fourth European title in winning the 1977 Swiss Open.
“Seve Ballesteros has always been my idol given his personality and what he did for golf and the tournaments that he won, and the way he won them was different to other golfers,” Manassero said.
If Manassero wins in Sweden he would be more than 13 months younger than when the Spanish star won a fifth Tour title.
Two-time Tour winner Larrazabal capped his round with four birdies over his opening nine holes.
“I played great to be 5 under par after 10 holes and then 6 under par after 14 and even after a bogey at 16 I managed to birdie the last,” Larrazabal said.
“So I played steady and I played safe, but then I played aggressive where I could, so seven birdies in a round is good for me.”
Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed, Welshman Jamie Donaldson and England’s Chris Lloyd and Simon Wakefield were one shot behind.
Donaldson, the reigning Irish Open and Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title holder, had his five birdies over his outward nine and then had nine pars in succession in his 67.
Sweden’s Peter Hanson, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 23, finished with a 3-under 69.