The first continental European brothers to play in The Ryder Cup received huge cheers every step of the way. (Getty Images)
Molinari brothers show their mettle
Edoardo and Francesco Molinari made history today as the first continental brothers to play in The Ryder.
by Paul Symes, europeantour.com
Despite being ultimately unable to deliver the point they had promised Captain Colin Montgomerie, Edoardo and Francesco Molinari – the first brothers from Continental Europe to compete at The Ryder Cup – showed their battling qualities in their narrow defeat to Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson.
Having been forced to sit out the opening day due to the adverse weather conditions, the Molinaris eventually made their long-awaited debuts in the ‘Friday’ foursomes at precisely 10.45am on a bright and sunny Saturday morning in south Wales.
The roar as they made their way to the first tee was deafening, with regular cries of “Forza Italia” emanating from a grandstand packed with fans waving and wearing Italian flags.
Despite the commotion and emotion, Francesco – or Chicco to his friends – settled his nerves and set his metronome swing into action, finding the fairway with his customary ease.
The momentum swung back and forth between the two teams over the first five holes, before the American duo got their noses ahead at the sixth hole and then promptly extended their advantage on the ninth, capitalising on an untidy bogey from the Italians.
Two halves followed before the pendulum swung back towards the Europeans on the long 12th hole, where a wayward second shot from Mahan put his playing partner in trouble.
Francesco’s approach also came up short of the green, but an exquisite chip from Edoardo enabled his younger brother to roll in the par putt from three feet to reduce the deficit by half, after the Americans had failed to get up and down.
The brothers – watched by Mamma Molinari, swing coach Denis Pugh and their prodigiously talented compatriot Matteo Manassero, surely a Ryder Cup contender of the future – were back in business.
After the 13th had been halved with a par three, the quartet moved onto the intimidating 14th, arguably the toughest hole on the course.
Francesco found the green with a superb approach shot over the water but an even better approach from Mahan piled on the pressure and, when Edoardo raced his birdie attempt past the hole, it looked as though the Americans would restore their two-hole advantage.
But Francesco holed a clutch putt, much to the delight of José Maria Olazabal – drafted in by Captain Montgomerie as a late assistant after the change to the format – and his compatriot Sergio Garcia, who geed up the crowd still further – as if they needed it – with cries of “vamos”.
And so to the risk / reward par four 15th, where Francesco showed why he is renowned as one of the best ball-strikers on Tour with a drive to the heart of the green.
Not to be outdone, Mahan was also rewarded for his bravery when he followed him onto the green to chants of “USA, USA”, designed to counter the cries of “There’s only two Molinaris”.
It was electric stuff, on and off the course, but both pairings had to ‘settle’ for birdies after their eagle attempts came up short.
By now Garcia and Olazabal had been joined by Montgomerie who, after seeing Mahan’s approach to the 16th green land in the bunker short of the green, advised Francesco to take more club.
The pocket dynamo duly placed his iron back into his bag and smacked his rescue club onto the heart of the green, much to the evident delight of his Captain.
When Johnson’s bunker shot came up short on the bank, Edoardo was left with the relatively straightforward task of rolling the ball near enough to the hole to force a concession, which was duly granted. It was game well and truly on.
But just as the Molinaris looked like making good on Edoardo’s earlier promise to remain unbeaten this week, the Americans struck a hammer blow by winning the 17th with a birdie.
And despite their best efforts, the Turin tyros were unable to force a closing birdie to halve the match.
But they will get their chance to gain revenge at 5.07pm, when they take on Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar in their session three fourball match.