Edoardo Molinari in Open qualification contention at Scottish Open

By Sports Desk July 11, 2019

Edoardo Molinari was a spectator when his brother Francesco won The Open last year, but he will be hoping to join him at Royal Portrush after surging into contention at the Scottish Open.

An eight-under 63 sees the Italian sit in a four-way tie for the lead after round one, alongside fellow Open hopefuls Romain Wattel and Nino Bertasio, with Matt Kuchar – runner-up at the 2017 championship at Royal Birkdale – completing the quartet.

The leading three players in the top 10 who are not already exempt will earn a spot at the world's oldest major in Northern Ireland next week.

"I'm in a good place at the minute," said Edoardo Molinari. "It seems like every week I'm playing better.

"I'm building something every week and when you play golf like this, it's quite easy but then everything can change in a very short amount of time.

"You just have to be careful and keep doing the same things and hopefully the results continue to improve."

There are some big names in action at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick, with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy among them.

He shot a 67 to sit alongside Justin Thomas on four under, while Rickie Fowler had to settle for an even-par round that included an eagle three at the 16th.

Henrik Stenson, another former Open winner, was blemish-free in his fine round of 65.

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    Lowry scored a gritty one-over 72 in demanding conditions, where high winds and intermittent heavy rain made life difficult for the field, to seal a six-shot victory from Tommy Fleetwood.

    The contrast to 12 months ago could not be more vast. Lowry had failed to make the weekend at The Open for a fourth straight year, plummeted to 92 in the world rankings and had lost some love for the game.

    "I suppose I didn't even know going out this morning if I was good enough to win a major. I knew I was able to put a few days together," Lowry told reporters. 

    "I just went out there and tried to give my best. I'm here now, a major champion. I can't believe I'm saying it, to be honest. I think the people around me really believed that I could, which helped me an awful lot. 

    "I do remember a lot of times in the past when I'm down on myself and serious chats with Neil [Manchip, his coach], he always reminded me, he always said that I was going to win one, at least one, he said. So I suppose when the people around you really believe in you, it helps you an awful lot.

    "I grew up holing putts back home to win The Open. I watched Paddy [Padraig Harrington] win his two Opens. I didn't even know him back then. I'm obviously very good friends with him. 

    "You go into Paddy's house and the Claret Jug is sitting on the kitchen table, and I'm going to have one on my kitchen table as well. I said that to him, that's going to be quite nice.

    "Carnoustie, that just shows how fickle golf is. Golf is a weird sport and you never know what's around the corner. That's why you need to remind yourself, and you need other people there to remind you. You need to fight through the bad times.

    "I sat in the car park in Carnoustie on Thursday, almost a year ago right to this week, and I cried. Golf wasn't my friend at the time. 

    "It was something that become very stressful and it was weighing on me and I just didn't like doing it. What a difference a year makes, I suppose."

    After his Carnoustie setback, Lowry split with long-term caddie Dermot Byrne and has seen a marked turn up in fortunes with Bo Martin carrying his bag, winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championships, and recording top-10s at the RBC Heritage, US PGA Championship and Canadian Open prior to his victory at Portrush.

    Lowry, who revealed Martin recently became a father, said his caddie helped him keep calm amid Sunday's nerves.

    "Bo's been incredible in the last year," he added. "He started caddying for me about September last year,which is about when I started playing well again.

    "He brought a new lease of life to me, he was unbelievable today. I kept telling him how nervous I was, how scared I was, how much I don't want to mess it up. 

    "He was great at keeping me in the moment. We've formed a great relationship. It was great for him today, they had a baby two weeks ago. He's now become a very good friend of mine, to share it with someone close, it's very special."

    Lowry was also able to share his winning moment with wife Wendy and daughter Iris, a moment he will cherish.

    "I spotted my family when I walked around the corner to have a look at the green and I welled up a little bit. I still had to play a decent shot but luckily I did," he said.

    "Those pictures are everything. My wife knew that no matter what, she [Iris] should be there because had I lost she would console me."

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    Holmes began Sunday in third place on the leaderboard, trailing Shane Lowry by six shots at 10 under par.

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    According to respected golf statistician Justin Ray, Head of Content for the 15th Club, the score represents the worst in an Open final round since Lew Taylor also shot 87 in the 1966 Championship at Muirfield. 

    Holmes, who also appeared to frustrate playing partner Brooks Koepka with the pace of his play, ended the tournament in a four-way tie for 67th at six over, with only three of the 73 players who made the cut below him.

    He finished two shots adrift of Ashton Turner, who had teed off on Sunday at the foot of the leaderboard but managed an impressive 68 to improve his position before heavy rain and gusting winds arrived to make life awkward for the closing groups.

    Had Holmes claimed third, the position he started the day in, he would have earned $718,000 - a prize that ultimately went to Tony Finau as Lowry picked up $1,935,000 for his victory and runner-up Tommy Fleetwood collected $1,120,000.

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    After finishing tied for second at the Masters, winning the US PGA Championship and claiming second outright at the U.S. Open, Koepka had to settle for a share of fourth on six under par in Northern Ireland, nine shots adrift of runaway winner Shane Lowry.

    A closing 74 spoiled his weekend, after rounds of 68, 69 and 67 put the 29-year-old in the hunt for the Claret Jug.

    Before Koepka's feat, Jordan Spieth was the last man to achieve the full house of top-five finishes when he won the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015 as well as enjoying strong runs at the Open and US PGA.

    Rickie Fowler, still yet to win a major, was a model of consistency in 2014, with two second places, a third and a fifth.

    Tiger Woods had three major wins in his 2000 season, plus a fifth place at the Masters, and in 2005 he triumphed at the Masters and Open Championship, while coming second at the U.S. Open and tying for fourth at the US PGA.

    Jack Nicklaus won the US PGA in 1971 and 1973, and in both seasons also bagged top-five finishes at the other majors.

    Despite joining such an elite club, Koepka was not impressed with his efforts at Portrush.

    "I don't see much positive out of it," he said after his final round. "If you don't play good you're not going to win. So it's very simple. It's disappointing, yes. I didn't play the way I wanted to. And I've got to live with that."

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