On the course where the 2023 Ryder Cup will be staged, Stenson stepped up his bid for a sixth appearance in the contest at Whistling Straits later this month with an opening seven-under 64.
The bogey-free effort at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome earned the Swede a share of the lead with Scottish Open champion Min Woo Lee of Australia and Finland’s Kalle Samooja.
“It has been really good these last two or three weeks,” said Stenson, who tied for fourth in the Czech Masters then claimed third spot in the European Masters.
“More than anything I feel like I am in a good frame of mind to play golf and to try and get the best score out of my game. There is still more to wish for, but we take the positives and keep on working on the rest.”
On a day when home player Edoardo Molinari drove away with a new car for a hole-in-one at the seventh – it helped him sign for a 65 along with Eddie Pepperell and Scott Hend - Scott Jamieson was the sole Scot to break par with a 70, which left him tied for 37th.
It was better day, though, for Craig Howie on the Challenge Tour as the Peebles player opened with a six-under 66 to sit joint-fourth, just three shots off the lead, in the British Challenge at The Belfry.