SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Watching Italy’s Francesco Molinari bounce around the PGA leader board this afternoon — he squeezed six birdies, two double-bogeys and a bogey into his very entertaining third round — I found myself wondering why he and his brother Edoardo haven’t created more buzz as Ryder Cup possibilities. The name “Molinari” was hardly spoken at the Ryder Cup captains’ press conference, and the British tabloids, which would normally have fun following the so-called frisky fratelli, seem preoccupied with European captain Colin Montgomerie’s sexual predilections.
Part of the blame must go to the European team’s selection system, which takes the first four players off the Ryder Cup World Points List (on which Edoardo currently ranks fifth) and then the top five players, not already selected, off the Ryder Cup European Tour Points List (where Francesco, nicknamed “Chico,” is currently No. 10), followed by three captain’s picks and the winners of the current Swedish and Portuguese Big Brother television shows. I’m not saying it’s a bewildering process, but we’ll figure out why no two snowflakes are alike before we’ll discover whether Ross Fisher can make the team.
“I don’t think about it,” Francesco said on Thursday after shooting a first-round 68 at Whistling Straits. “Or at least I try [not to]. But at the end of every week, you watch the rankings, and you see if something is changed.”
The absence of Molinari buzz surprises me because the brothers, if chosen, would give Monty the ultimate Ryder Cup pairing. You want compatibility? Who are more compatible than brothers who have played golf together since childhood, shared rooms, caddied for each other, play practically all their practice rounds together and continue to share lodgings at major tournaments? You say that language barriers have handicapped past European partnerships? Pick the Molinaris. They’re fluent in Italian, English and Spanish.
Did I mention that they’re already a proven match-play partnership? The Molinaris won last year’s Omega Mission Hills World Cup title in China, outplaying two-man teams from scores of nations, including — are you listening, Monty? — the United States. When Edoardo, nicknamed “Dodo,” sank the winning putt, he ran around the green with his arms raised, causing Robert Karlsson of the runner-up Swedes to grin. “Edoardo went crazy,” Karlsson said afterwards, “and Francesco just smiled. It is going to be interesting to see just how far each of them goes in the game.”
The Molinaris will be going a long way, based upon their recent performances. Edoardo is currently No. 21 in the World Golf Ranking with a victory in the Barclays Scottish Open, a tie for second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and a 2010 total of five Top-5 finishes on the European Tour. Francesco, currently ranked 37th in the world, finished ninth at The Players, lost to Miguel Angel Jimenez in a playoff at the Alstom Open de France, and contended to the last putt before finishing third in the Madrid Masters. The highlight for the brothers was the Scottish Open, where Chico joined Dodo in the final threesome and finished tied for fourth.
When I spent time with the Molinaris in May for an SI Golf Plus feature, Edoardo dismissed his own prospects for a Ryder Cup berth, saying, “It would be tough for me to make it this year.” But he didn’t hide his belief that he and his brother will someday play for Europe. “It would be great to have two Italians in the Ryder Cup,” he said with a smile. “That would be very special for a country with only a hundred thousand golfers.”
Personally, I don’t see why Italy — or I — should have to wait. Francesco is tied for 19th at the PGA as I write this, and Edoardo, after a third-round 70, is just a stroke further back at three under, tied with a possible U.S. captain’s pick by the name of Tiger Woods. So if Montgomerie knows what’s good for him (and it’s possible he doesn’t, judging from the rumors swirling around his private life), he’ll make sure the Molinaris are on that plane to Wales at the end of September.
To leave them behind would be disastroso.