NEWPORT, Wales – The golfing Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco, are driven to be successful in a way that the football throwing Manning brothers certainly understand.
“How do you say this?” asks Edoardo, at 29 older by two years. “It’s very – I mean, it’s something that you really want to be; you want to be better than your brother.”
For the moment, Edoardo at 15th in the world is slightly ahead of Francesco at 32nd. Together, they’re reining World Cup champions and now the first Continental European brothers to compete in a Ryder Cup.
Twelve Italian newspapers have been credentialed since the brothers made the team. A nation focused on soccer suddenly bitten by the golf bug, Italy last basked in Ryder Cup glory in 1997 when Costantino Rocca famously beat Tiger Woods in Ryder Cup singles in 1997.
The Molinaris idolized Rocca growing up in Turin, home to the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. There they followed their father to the local golf course.
“We get along very well with each other since we were starting to play golf when we were 10, 11 years old,” says Edoardo.
“But obviously there was a little bit of competition and rivalry between each other. But I think it’s done very good for us, because when you see your brother playing better, you want to improve and you want to catch him. I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re here this week, both of us.”
Edoardo first put the Molinaris on the map in 2005 when he became the first Italian to win a U.S. Amateur Championship. That landed the brothers at the 2006 Masters, Edoardo as competitor and Francesco as his caddie. They played the first two days alongside Woods.
“I got to watch Tiger and the best in the world,” remembers Francesco. “That gave me a lot of motivation to improve and get there one day.”
Francesco’s career as a caddie thankfully was short lived. A month after that Masters, Francesco won the Italian Open, the first native in 26 years to do so.
Meanwhile, Edoardo remained an amateur, completing a college degree in engineering. He turned pro later in 2006, steadily climbing until his breakthrough in 2009. A year ago, he dominated the Challenge Tour and won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan. He also finished second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
This past summer a third-round 63 propelled him to victory at the Barclays Scottish Open. Later he won the Johnnie Walker at Gleneagles with three sconsecutive birdies to close when anything less than a win would have opened the door for European Ryder cup captain Colin Montgomerie to choose another player.
Clearly, Edoardo’s not lacking for confidence. Before he was selected by Monty he predicted that he and his brother would go unbeaten if he were chosen.
And what was Francesco’s reaction to his brother’s bold shot?
“That he was mad,” he cracked, the press room erupting in laughter. “I guess he was trying desperately to make the team and he did great in doing that.”
Edoardo’s the putter, Francesco the ball striker, together a good fit.
“We played a lot of foursomes as amateurs” recalls Edoardo. “We played a few times the St. Andrews Trophy and the European Team Championship. But still our games are quite different so I think also in fourballs we can win points.”
Ken Schofield, Golf Channel analyst, says there is considerable pressure on the brothers.
“Yes they did win the World Cup,” explains Schofield, “but this is a Ryder Cup.”
“They can give Monty great momentum. On the other hand if they go down where do they go?”
“Of course, with the pressure there’s also great pride,” adds Schofield. “They’re not just representing the Ryder Cup team but golf in Italy, today and tomorrow.”
“We are quite calm and cool under pressure,” says Edoardo. “So there’s not really much we do with each other or we say to each other. But obviously, in case you get a little bit too tense or too nervous, you know that your brother is always there to try and help you.”