In scorching heat at Golf Club Varese in northern Italy, the 39-year-old produced a flawless round, which included three birdies in the last three holes, to lead by one from four players, including compatriot Andrew McArthur.
“That score was probably the worst it could have been today,” said Russell, who was limited to just two events on The European Tour last year because of a debilitating virus. “I three-putted a par five, missed from four feet for birdie at the eighth and three feet for birdie at the ninth. But it was really solid. I just kept it in play and my iron play was very good. The longest putt I holed was eight to ten feet.”
Despite having a medical exemption for the European Tour, Russell added: “I’m going to stick to the Challenge Tour for the rest of the season and try to get my card again that way.”