Francesco Molinari shot a 4-under 68 Saturday to take one-shot lead over brother Edoardo after the third round of the European Tour’s Johnnie Walker Championship. Francesco was at 10-under 206 to move ahead of his older brother, who had a 69.
Oliver Wilson (68) and Simon Dyson (70), Gregory Bourdy (70) and Julien Guerrier (73) of France and Stephen Gallacher (71) of Scotland were another shot back.
The sibling rivalry could put pressure on European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie to make sure the duo, a winning pair at golf’s World Cup in China last year, both debut against the United States at Celtic Manor in October. Francesco has qualified, but Edoardo would only make the team as a captain’s pick when Montgomerie fills out his squad Sunday.
Edoardo has stiff competition from four Europeans based on the PGA Tour -- Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Paul Casey -- who are all ranked among the world’s top 22 players and hoping to receive one of Montgomerie’s three captain’s picks to extend their Ryder Cup careers.
Montgomerie acknowledged that he’d have a dilemma if Edoardo were to win his second title in Scotland this year after a victory at Loch Lomond last month.
“It would make my headache even worse,” Montgomerie said. “It’s a lovely headache to have. I’ve got guys on form and the guys in the FedexCup are doing well. They all made the cut and it will be interesting to see how they get on.”
He admitted that pairing the Molinaris would be an attractive option.
“Even at this stage, that’s a great advantage to have,” Montgomerie said. “I’m not just picking the best players right now, I’m picking who can play with whom. So, of course, it’s a criterion because Francesco’s brother is the obvious candidate.”
The fourth round of the Johnnie Walker also could alter the makeup of the nine players who automatically earn places on the European team, with both Sweden’s Peter Hanson and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez in danger down the qualifying table.
Jimenez shot a 71 in the third round and was three shots off the lead but Hanson, last week’s Czech Open winner, only mustered a 75 that left him seven shots adrift. Either player could lose out to Dyson, who would automatically qualify with a win at Gleneagles.