Saturday 18 November 2017

High-flying Molinari on solo Swiss assignment

Mark Garrod

European golf's man of the moment, Edoardo Molinari, will try to follow his Ryder Cup call-up this week by becoming the first player to win three times this season.

But two things would appear to be against the 29-year-old at the Omega European Masters -- he is not in Scotland and he does not have his brother Francesco with him.

Remarkably, the victories in the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and then on Sunday in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles were both achieved with Francesco as his final-round playing partner.

The younger of the first siblings to make the same Ryder Cup team since Bernard and Geoff Hunt in 1963 is having the week off before returning at the KLM Open in Holland next Thursday.

But wild card Edoardo is at Crans-sur-Sierre in Switzerland and considers last year's tournament as the start of his amazing burst into Colin Montgomerie's side.

"I was lucky enough to get an invitation," he recalled. "I was leading the Challenge Tour by a little bit, but had not played a (European) Tour event for three or four months. I had a decent week (he came 14th) and that was big for the confidence because I didn't know where I was compared to the guys on the European Tour.


"It wasn't a great finish, but I knew this year that I could play well, although I didn't imagine I could make the Ryder Cup. Obviously it's been a great 12 months and hopefully I'll keep improving."

Molinari began 2009 at 653rd in the world, by this time last year was up to 166th and then a month later climbed into the top 100.

Now he is 15th, which makes him the highest-ranked player in this week's field ahead of British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.

That will guarantee Molinari a star group in the first two rounds wherever he plays on the circuit -- and on this occasion he finds himself paired with Australian great Greg Norman. This is the 55-year-old's first appearance since a shoulder operation last September.

Oosthuizen, meanwhile, partners Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, the only other member of Europe's team taking part. Like Molinari, he is going for a third win of the year.

Ryder Cup vice-captain Paul McGinley, after his improved showing at the Johnnie Walker Championship last week, heads a six-strong Irish contingent in the Swiss Alps.

The Dubliner is first off the tee this morning alongside Gareth Maybin, while Shane Lowry, Michael Hoey, Darren Clarke and Peter Lawrie make up the rest of the Irish hopefuls.

The European Masters

Live, Sky Sports 3, 10.30/5.30

Irish Independent

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