(Rome, June 3 2004) Six players are tied for the lead at the close of play in the €275,000 BMW Ladies Italian Open at Parco di Roma GC. The first round is yet to be concluded after a two hour suspension of play due to a violent storm earlier in the afternoon.

Nicky Moult – came in during the gathering gloom

“I holed some putts today that I haven’t holed in quite a while,” said the amiable Belgian, who last led a tournament when she fired a 66 in the first round of the 2003 AAMI Women’s Australian Open.

Esterl, looking to add to her Tenerife Open title in 2003, her only victory to date on Tour was in consistent form with three birdies and one bogey due to a three putt at the seventh.

The Solheim Cup star of 2003 started as the 10-1 favourite at the beginning of the week and showed why in the first round that her game suits tough and long courses.

“Difficult courses suit me, especially if the greens are as good as these,” said Esterl.

“I played very well and apart form one three putt, it was solid. I was chipping well and I’m surprised that the scores are this good because it’s a tough course and the weather has not been on our side.”

Moult, who finished in the gathering gloom, used her long putter to excellent effect on the slick putting surfaces and highlighted the point with a 15-foot birdie putt at the final hole to retain her share of the lead.

“I’m glad I got finished, now I don’t have to wake up early to finish off in the morning,” said the 32-year-old from Sutton Coldfield. “I played great all day and the greens were lovely to putt on and hopefully I can keep it going.”