Edoardo Molinari will be in either of two picturesque if very different seaside ports next week – Portrush or Portofino.
The 38-year-old elder brother of Open champion Francesco came very close to booking a late spot in this year’s championship last week in Ireland, missing out by just two strokes.
His eight-under 63 yesterday – one of four on a day of frenzied scoring at the Renaissance Club, with over 50 players on four-under or better at the end of the day – gives him a good shot at one of the three eleventh-hour spots at Portrush available from the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
But if that doesn’t happen, Edoardo is going to take the wife and kids to the idyllic Italian Riviera resort of Portofino. Seems pretty much like a win-win situation for the Italian.
“I’m not planning on going (to Portrush) if I don’t get in,” he said. “It would obviously be special to be there when Francesco is the defending champion.
“I was very close last week, I only missed by a couple of shots at the weekend, but I’m not evenin thinking about it just yet. I’m just trying to play well and post some good scores here.”
Molinari’s biggest issue was waiting in the second wave of starters at the Renaissance and seeing scores plummet.
“It’s not nice sitting in the players’ lounge on a Thursday seeing the leader already at eight under, knowing you have to out and play catch-up. But I have a good record in Scotland, I I love playing here and love the links golf.
“I’ve also won at Gleneagles and this championship at Loch Lomond, and I love it when the wind blows and that keeps the scoring tight, so hopefully that will happen now.”
Molinari shares the lead with fellow Italian Nino Bertasio, France’s Romain Wattel and Matt Kuchar, who had two eagles in his 63.
“I’m not one to overpower the par fives normally, but I was able to get home on two, holed one 15-foot putt and another about 50 feet,” said the American who is currently leading their FedEx Cup standings. “It was one of those you’re trying to lag and you get a nice surprise when it disappears.”
There was some wind later for the afternoon starters but little defence for a course softened by heavy overnight and morning rain, although the fear of thunderstorms didn’t materialise.
In addition, as Rory McIlroy pointed out, everyone was finding their way a little.
“This is a new venue and maybe some of the pin positions were a little generous because they don’t know how we’re going to play the course,” he pointed out.
“It’s a little soft from the rain and conditions are the defence of any links course – remember we had a 62 at Birkdale just a couple of years ago.”
Rory stayed in the hunt with a solid four-under 67, just a stroke ahead of playing partner Robert MacIntyre, who survived a little mid-round wobble around the turn – three successive bogeys from the 8th – to finish with a 68.
““I thought Robert did great,” said McIlroy. “I said to him I enjoyed watching him playing at the British Masters on TV, where he was in contention at Hillside and he played and handled himself very well.
“He got off to a nice start, it was a bit of a shaky one for him around the middle but he came back with a couple of birdies coming in.”
MacIntyre had the shakes going down the first, even over the birdie putt he made to get off to the ideal shot.
“I couldn’t have had a better start to my first Scottish Open. The first tee, I’ve never experienced anything like that. Rory and Rickie (Fowler) were great to play with.
“But I’m still going out there trying to beat these guys. That’s the only way you can think, you are playing in the same tournament, they’re competing against you.”
Perhaps the response to those three successive bogeys – a birdie at the 11th, usually the toughest hole on the course – said most about MacIntyre’s day.
“I changed club three times over that approach – we had a bit of giggle going down the fairway on that hole,” he said. “It was a nice eight-iron in the end.”
Best placed Scot on the day was Richie Ramsay, who continued the decent return to form this season with a six-under 65 finishing with a 50-foot putt from off the green at the last – doubly satisfying as his attachment is with the Renaissance Club.
“I tried to be patient out there today,” he said. “There is obviously a lot of expectation and also a lot of other factors that you think about coming into a week like this. and you sometimes put too much pressure on yourself just to play well.
“Knowing this is the Scottish Open is always there: you wait for this week come and it’s the same with the Dunhill a bit for the Scottish guys. It’s also the fact it’s a Rolex Series event brings a huge amount of benefits as well.
“We are talking about big Race to Dubai points, world ranking points and, of course, three Open spots as well at the end of it.”
David Drysdale (68) and Marc Warren (69), in sore need of a strong finish after a tough season so far, aren’t entirely out of those either. But hardly anyone is; the course needs to dry and quicken and the pins maybe need tucked a little today if there’s going to be any separation among a bunched and crowded leaderboard.