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Jul 17

British Open Leaders Surprise

Italians Make Good Showing

Here’s the way it goes overseas. When the rain sets in for so much of the year in places like Britain, Ireland, and most of the other northern sections of Europe, they head south. More than anywhere else, they head south to Italy, where it’s warm, sunny, and peaceful.

Mother nature must have thought she was throwing everyone a curve this week at the Royal Liverpool for the first round of the British Open. In fact, she brought to the men’s field the last thing they would expect – Italian-style weather, sunny, warm, and peaceful. And what do you think happened because of that? The British Open leaderboard was invaded by Italians. No, they’re not running away with it. In fact, they’re not even leading, but if the leader has a misstep, one or all of them could be ready to pounce.

As it stands, the Open is currently in the hands of Rory McIlroy of North Ireland. That’s a little more in keeping with expectations, perhaps, but he only leads by one, and the second round appears to be a different story, as a meteorologist would think of it.  Mother nature has had enough sun, and she’s bringing what the golfers of Britain (and the northernmost parts of Europe) expect – foul weather, not the kind of weather Italians like at all.

molinari 1 One of the biggest surprises has been Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, two brothers, a year apart (Francesco is 31, Edoardo is 32), who have made a little noise before. They were teamed together for Europe in the 2010 Ryder Cup. They’ve either won or threatened to win on the European tour, and of the few times that they have played together in the last group on Sunday, older brother Edoardo has won twice. My research tells me that the brothers hail from Torino, so the foul weather trick might not work so well on them. Torino lies well to the north, in proximity to the majestic Dolomites. If you want to get from Torino to Austria, it’s not all that long a trip. The Molinari brothers are not unaccustomed to uppity weather. Edoardo is pretty serious about this – he’s gone through two wrist operations and a hefty recouping period to get here. Francesco, of course, has the highest motivation a sibling can have – he wants to beat his brother, badly.
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molinari 2 The other Italian surprise, however, is perhaps a bigger one. For one thing, he’s twenty-one years of age, and isn’t writing himself off at all based on inexperience. In the first round, he put together seven birdies (while the sun was out), and sits one ahead of the Molinaris’ identical 68s, one behind McIlroy’s impressive 66.

Write young Matteo Manassero off if you dare, but he’s no ordinary twenty-one year old over there – think Jordan Spieth or Ricky Fowler with an Italian accent. Or, consider this – he’s the youngest European tour winner in history. Rory McIlroy was 22 when he won his first major at the U.S. Open. Maybe this guy can eclipse the mark. He isn’t too well known in Britain, and the press is following their native sons. Manassero, as far as British sports journalism is concerned, is still “that Italian fella.”

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There’s no telling what’s in store. Manassero is such a little-known player that I can’t find out where he comes from, and that’s important – I’ve lived in Italy. I know. The Molinaris have the toughness of the north, but if Manassero is from the center of the country, like Rome, maybe he’s a descendant of generals from the empire. And if he’s from the south, as in the Sicilian south? It would better if you didn’t know.

They’re just waking up for the second round about now. Let’s see if the anticipated British weather can shake off the Italians, and bring some British order to the situation.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.