Italian brothers stalk top of Open leaderboard
Edoardo and Francesco Molinari are pretty much inseparable.
The brothers were partners in Europe's winning Ryder Cup side in 2010. A year earlier, they'd teamed up to win the World Cup for Italy at Mission Hills.
Now they are together on the British Open leaderboard.
About 30 minutes after Edoardo signed for a four-under 68 in the opening round at Hoylake on Thursday (local time), Francesco rolled in a 15-feet eagle putt at No 18 to shoot the same score.
"We were here on Sunday practising together," said Francesco, the younger sibling by nearly two years. "Probably we did a good job."
The brothers have been feeding off each other's games ever since they dominated their local club championships at Circolo Golf Torino as teenagers.
"It was a big thing growing up in Italy," Francesco said. "At our age, there weren't that many golfers playing well so there was someone that you could compete against every day - even just training with him every day, it was good to get the best out of our games."
For the 33-year-old Edoardo, it is a welcome return to big-time golf.
Since 2011, he has been beset by injuries, primarily to his left hand, on which he had surgery in 2012 and again last year. He also had problems with his left wrist.
Edoardo has been playing injury-free for the past seven months and a runner-up finish at the Irish Open last month secured his spot at the British Open.
"The toughest time was after the first surgery when you undergo one surgery one time, then you hope it's the last one," he said. "And then to do it again something like a year later wasn't fun at all. But hopefully, touching wood, everything is fine now."
It's not the first time Edoardo and Francesco have been alongside each other on a leaderboard. In the last qualifying event for the Ryder Cup in 2010, they were the final pairing at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, and Edoardo finished with three straight birdies to win the tournament and seal a place on Europe's team.
In 2009, they also went head-to-head at the Scottish Open, with Edoardo prevailing again.
"We don't like to lose to each other," Francesco said, "we don't like to lose to anyone else."
"I saw the leaderboard," he added about his round on Thursday, "but it's a tough course so you have to focus on what you are doing rather than the others are doing, even if it's your brother."
Just to maintain the Italian flavour at Royal Liverpool, Matteo Manassero shot 67 to sit in second place after the morning starters behind Rory McIlroy. The Molinari brothers were tied for third.
"It's good to see three Italians up there," Francesco said. "I'm sure it's going to be good for the kids watching us at home."
Golf doesn't normally get much attention in Italy, but that may be about to change.
"Italy at the moment is more about team sports, football in particular," Francesco said. "I'm sure tonight they will be talking about us."