Molinari rockets to Scottish Open lead with 62, No. 1 Donald five behind

Francesco Molinari at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open
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Francesco Molinari grabbed the first-round lead at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open after a 10-birdie, course-record 62 at Castle Stuart.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012 | 2:48 p.m.

INVERNESS, Scotland -- Francesco Molinari spared a thought for his brother Edoardo on Thursday after a truly dazzling start to his bid for a notable family double.

Molinari, 29, leads the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open after a 10-birdie, course-record 62 at Castle Stuart against a field that includes world No. 1 Luke Donald and 10 major champions.

Edoardo won the Scottish Open title at Loch Lomond two years ago -- three months before he and Francesco became partners in the Ryder Cup. But the older of the brothers had left wrist surgery two weeks ago and, having not played for a month, is likely to spend the entire summer rehabilitating.

"It would be nice to do well this week for him as well -- to cheer him up a little bit," said Francesco, who looks in the form of his life after finishing second in the Alstom French Open on Sunday thanks to a closing 64.

Molinari leads by two over Alejandro Canizares, whose 64 was one better than the group of players in at 65. They include Soren Kjeldsen, Raphael Jacquelin, Shane Lowry, Robert Coles, Peter Lawrie, Fredrik Jacobson, Alexander Noren, Andrew Marshall and Jeev Milkha Singh.

Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer carded 67s, while Rich Beem had a 68. In at 69 were Henrik Stenson, Louis Oosthuizen, Matteo Manassero and Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal. Ernie Els handed in a 70, while Phil Mickelson struggled to a 73.

Donald had some of the gloss taken off his return to golf when he bogeyed two of his last five holes. But considering he had birdied six of the previous seven and handed in a 67 in his first competitive round since missing the cut at the U.S. Open, the world No. 1 was still smiling.

Donald is defending the Scottish Open title he won with a closing 63 on the same layout last year, and he felt that if he had been just a little sharper he might have matched that.

"After three weeks off from competitive golf, that was a nice, solid round," he said. "Obviously I let a couple slip at the end, but overall I'm pleased.

"It's always hard when you've had a little bit of time off to be completely 100 per cent sharp, but it feels like I'm right on the cusp of figuring out exactly what I need."

Good news indeed with the British Open at Royal Lytham only a week away.

"Seven birdies mean I'm doing a lot of things right," Donald said. "Conditions were pretty generous -- no wind, pretty soft greens -- and I wouldn't mind a bit of wind just to get that feel for next week. It's good to test the swing -- you need to control the ball when it's windy.

"Obviously the margins (for errors) are a lot smaller next week and I've got to be a little more accurate," he added. "The last couple of weeks I worked extremely hard, more so on my long game than I usually do.

"I was just really disappointed with the control I had at the U.S. Open. I felt I needed to hit left to right there, but didn't do it the right way."

Mickelson missed out on a trip to the Vatican to play this week, but he might need some help from above to win after his 73 left him 11 behind. Not that the three-time Masters champion is waiting for divine intervention.

"I think everybody is looked on equally and you have to make your own destiny," said Mickelson, who left his family in Italy because he felt the need to play more before going to Royal Lytham.

The 42-year-old, who tied for second behind Darren Clarke at Sandwich last summer, began well enough with two birdies in his first three holes. But his problems of late resurfaced with three bogeys and also a 7 at the long 12th, where he went through the fairway into a hazard and only then realized that hitting driver was the wrong decision.

Mickelson made the decision to seek an invitation to the Scottish Open after missing the halfway cut in America last Friday.

"The last two months I've played very poorly (he was only 65th at the U.S. Open and withdrew from the Memorial) and I added this week because I need to play a bit more," he said.

At 1 over, the same as playing partner Paul Lawrie, Mickelson is well outside the top 100 going into the second round. Only the top 65 and ties make it through the 36-hole cut.

If Molinari wins this weekend, it would be only the second time in European Tour history that brothers have won the same event. Spaniards German and Antonio Garrido were Madrid Open champions in 1973 and 1977, respectively.

At 10 under after 15 holes, Molinari -- on course to earn a second berth against the Americans in September -- admits he did work out that three more birdies would give him the European Tour's first-ever 59.

It didn't happen -- he parred them all -- but he can still claim to have broken 60 for 18 holes. In Paris he played his last nine in 29 and here he turned in 30.

The 62 matched the lowest round of his Tour career and was a far cry from his first experience of links golf. That came in an amateur event at St. Andrews over a decade ago. Anybody seeing him give a fist-pump of celebration when he birdied the last would have thought he had had a good day -- but it was to break 90.

Not that he was the only one to suffer that day. One of his partners had "10 or 11" attempts to get out of a bunker on the short eighth, gave up and walked in.

Molinari is now a Ryder and World Cup winner, also has a world championship victory to his name, and will see his odds for next week's British Open cut even more -- he is currently around 40/1 -- if he goes on like this.

"I know it's not going to last forever," he added, "but I hope to keep this going a little bit longer. Obviously next week, but the next month or so is really big for the Ryder Cup. That, probably more than the Open, is in my mind."