Molinari boys fly Italian flag at Royal Liverpool
Compatriot Manassero goes one better with 67 on British Open opening day
Edoardo Molinari of Italy hits his tee shot on the fourth hole on his way to a four-under-par 68 on the opening day of the 143rd British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake. His brother Francesco also shot 68. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Edoardo Molinari has an unusual nickname which, it transpires, has nothing to do with the extinct bird. He is called “Dodo”, a name which has stuck since his childhood days when his younger brother Francesco struggled to pronounce his name.
In football, they don’t see eye-to-eye. Edoardo supports Juventus, whilst Francesco supports Inter Milan. But, there, the sibling rivalry ends. In golf, they have been inseparable and united in flying the flag for Italy – a country where the number of golfers has doubled in the past two decades as the sport enjoys a surge in popularity – and have broken barriers: winning the World Cup in 2009 and both playing on the winning Ryder Cup team in 2010.
Yesterday, the two Molinari boys – sons of a dentist and an architect – took to the links just half-an-hour apart and finished with the same scores, a pair of four-under-par 68s that manoeuvred them into immediate contention.
This time, they weren’t alone in flying the flag. Matteo Manassero, a 21-year-old who has followed in their slipstream on tour, signed for a 67.
To Manassero, the two Molinaris have been mentors and an inspiration. In the build-up here, all three had played practice rounds.
The Molinari boys have spurred each other on throughout their careers.
“There weren’t that many golfers playing well so there was someone you could compete against every day, even just training with him every day. It was good to get the best out of our games,” recalled Francesco, the younger by 22 months.
In fact, Francesco was the first to take the plunge into the professional game, in 2004. Two years later, Edoardo – who had won the US Amateur, the first continental European to do so – joined him on tour. And their respective quests for a Major have continued ever since.
“We don’t like to lose to each other; we don’t like to lose to anyone else,” said Francesco of the competitive spirit that feeds them.
“I was very happy, just to get into a Major is the first step,” he said. “Since the end of 2011, it wasn’t a lot of fun. It’s very frustrating when you have an injury and you can’t really do anything about it. 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.”