Joakim Backstrom Bäckström leads Italia Open by one as Brier surges

As second round action got underway in Milan this morning at the European PGA Tour's Telecom Italia Open, Sweden's Joakim Bäckström clung to a narrow one stroke lead over Austria's Markus Brier.

Thursday was a day of low scores at the Castello di Tolcinasco Golf & Country Club, with considerably more than half the field shooting under par. The par-5 first and ninth were the easiest holes, seeing 12 and nine eagles, respectively, and each more than 100 birdies.

Setting the pace all day Thursday was Bäckström, 29, who fired a course record 62 to sit at 10-under-par for the championship.

His first round included two eagles - the second coming at the par-5 15th - and six birdies, including five in his last 10 holes. He recorded no bogeys.

"Pretty much everything was good today," Bäckström told "My irons and putting were very good and my driving was okay, I had no real big misses and that helped give me chances."

But finishing early meant that Bäckström had to sit in the clubhouse and watch the field gain on him.

Leading that charge was Brier, a winner last month at the Volvo Open in Shanghai. Brier started his first round with birdies at the par-5 first and par-4 third. Then, he holed out from 20 feet off the green on the par-5 ninth for an eagle.

But it was Brier's back nine that landed him second place: He birdied six out of his last seven holes, to card a 9-under-par 63.

"I don't get nervous now if you get one birdie after another and I am not afraid of low scores," Brier told reporters after the round. "Even when I make a mistake I don't bother as much as I did before and I step up to the next shot like normal. Today was a good example of that. I had a good start and got through the tough holes, the six, seven and eight and then I really kicked on from there and didn't make any mistakes."

A group of five players, led by Taichi Teshima of Japan, sits at seven-under. Local favorite and defending champion Francesco Molinari recorded six birdies and one bogey on his way to a five-under-par 67. He is five back from the lead.

Bäckström was scheduled to tee off early this afternoon.

May 4, 2007

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