Molinaris' paths converge on Open leaderboard
HOYLAKE, England – Italy never has been known as a hotbed of golf. Its sports history is tied to a soccer team that has won four World Cup titles since 1934 and a fencing program that has captured more than 60 gold medals in the Olympics since the turn of the 20th century.
That could all change with the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco, sitting near the top of the leaderboard in the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
“I think in Italy at the moment it's more about team sports and football in particular,” The younger Francesco said of the interest in golf. “But, yeah, I'm sure tonight they'll be talking about us.”
There are very few similarities between the brothers. Edoardo, 33, is a little more than a year older than his brother Francesco, 31. The older Molinari still lives in their hometown of Turin, in northwest Italy, but his younger, married brother lives in London.
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The brothers Molinari also have different styles of game. Edoardo is longer off the tee and more of a risk-taker while Francesco is more of a plodder.
The younger Molinari has had a little more professional success than his older brother, winning three times on the European Tour, including the 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions.
The older Molinari won the U.S. Amateur at Merion in 2005, the only Italian to have won the title.
In the professional ranks, he has won twice in Europe, but not since 2010. Injuries have played a part in recent years. In 2011, Edoardo Molinari injured his left wrist, which required surgery later that year. He tried to play with an injured left thumb in 2012 and eventually underwent surgery in August 2012.
“It's very frustrating when you have an injury and you can't really do anything about it,” Edoardo Molinari said. “And I think especially the toughest time was after the first surgery when you undergo one surgery one time, then you hope it's the last one. And then to do it again something like a year later wasn't fun at all. But hopefully, touching wood, everything is fine now, and I can keep playing good golf.”
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Even the way they both got to 4 under in the first round Thursday was different. Edoardo started with two consecutive birdies and five in total, offset only by a bogey on the par-4 12th hole.
Francesco started his seventh career Open Championship with a bogey on the first and had to fight back, needing a 15-foot eagle putt at the last to catch his brother in a tie for third.
“We don't like to lose to each other,” Francesco said. “We don't like to lose to anyone else. I think it was a big thing when we were growing up in Italy. Our age, there weren't many golfers playing well. So to have someone you're competing against every day, even just training alongside, and it was good to get the best out of our games.”
Neither Molinari has shot better than 69 in the opening round of an Open Championship, and only Francesco has had much success in the oldest championship, with a T-9 last year at Muirfield.
With three rounds to go, they are in a position to change that history. For now, both are content to have made a good start.
“I guess it's nice to get a little cushion,” Francesco said. “I don't think we'll see these conditions tomorrow, and maybe for the rest of the week. It's a golf course that I think won't play as easy as it did today, and I think on a day like today you just want to make some birdies and you want to be as close to the top as possible. It's nice to finish 4 under.”