Molinaris are men with a mission

European Tour

Brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari are seeking to write some more history at this week’s Omega World Cup.

Brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari are seeking this week to establish Italy as the first nation for more than a decade to successfully defend the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

Two years ago they wrote some golfing history by becoming the first brothers, as well as the first Italians, to win the World Cup when they edged out Ireland and Sweden by a single stroke.

Now they are aiming to emulate the achievement of David Duval and Tiger Woods in 2000, when the US pair reclaimed the trophy for the United States with a back-to-back win following the AQmerican triumph 12 months earlier by Woods and Mark O’Meara.

Italy’s celebrated brothers clinched the title in thrilling fashion on the final hole at Mission Hills Golf Club, where Francesco played an exquisite bunker shot and Edoardo duly rolled in the par putt from three feet to spark wild celebrations.

Francesco recalled: “It’s always a great feeling to represent your country, and my memories of the last World Cup have left me feeling that it was a lot of fun – especially as I was playing with my brother.

“Of course there’s pressure, but it’s a nice type of pressure.

“In previous World Cups we’d always got off to bad starts, but last time we managed to get off to a good start and as the week went on, we seemed to get stronger and our games improved.

“We managed to get into contention and hole some important putts at the right time, and we were one ahead going down the last.

“When we got to the bunker the lie was quite good, so I knew we still had a great chance of getting up and down to win the tournament. I left Edoardo with a three-foot putt, which I was glad he had to hole because I think I might’ve been a little bit nervous standing over it”

“The joy was unbelievable when my putt dropped,” Edoardo recalled.

“My first thought was to embrace Francesco as soon as I could, because we’d been playing golf together since we were little, so to win the World Cup together for our country was a dream come true.

“We used to watch a lot of World Cups when we were young, when Costantino [Rocca] represented Italy. I never thought then that one day we’d be playing in the World Cup, let alone winning it.”

Two years on, they will have a different course to contend this week after the US$7.5million event was switched to the Mission Hills Resort on Hainan Island, a stunning tropical island in the South China Sea.

But if the venue is new, many the opposition won’t be.

The Irish duo of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are back and fiercely determined to go one better this time

Had McDowell’s birdie putt on the last hole two years ago rolled just a few inches wide to end the pair’s chances of forcing a play-off with the Molinari brothers.

Instead, they fell agonisingly short of becoming the first Irishmen since Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley in 1997 to lift the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

McDowell said: “I was delighted when Rory selected me to be his partner again. There is nothing quite like representing Europe in The Ryder Cup or Ireland in the World Cup. It’s a real buzz! We worked well as a partnership two years ago, and we can’t wait to try our luck at Hainan Island.”

Had McDowell’s birdie putt on the last hole two years ago rolled just a few inches further, the pair would have forced a play-off with the Molinari brothers. But instead, they fell agonisingly short of becoming the first Irishmen since Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley in 1997 to lift the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.

McDowell said: “I was delighted when Rory selected me to be his partner again. There is nothing quite like representing Europe in The Ryder Cup or Ireland in the World Cup; it’s a real buzz. We worked well as a partnership two years ago, and we can’t wait to try to claim the title at Hainan Island.”

Robert Karlsson is another who is intent on banishing the painful memories of Sweden’s narrow defeat, though this time, instead of his regular partner Henrik Stenson, he will instead be paired with the rapidly rising young Swede Alexander Noren, who already has two titles to his name this year

Karlsson, who successfully linked up with Noren at the Royal Trophy last year, is seeking his second victory at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, having triumphed in tandem with Stenson in 2008.

“People might think that Alex will be looking up to me because I am the older more experienced player,” said Karlsson, “but after the year he has had I think it should be the other way round!

“It’s going to be great. I picked Alex because he has won twice this year, and he is a great player. He is the kind of guy who can make a lot of birdies when he gets going, and that is very important in the World Cup format.

“We played together a couple of times in the Royal Trophy so I’m very confident that the partnership will work well, because we played two games together and won both of them. It’s going to be very exciting.”

The biggest threat to the top three from two years ago could well come from the South African duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, who will be hoping to bring their Major presence to bear as they make their debuts in this event.

“Charl and I have been looking forward to the World Cup for a while now. Since juniors we’ve dreamed about playing for South Africa in the World Cup, so now that it’s actually happening it’s going to be very special,” Oosthuizen said.

“We’ve played a lot of amateur events together for South Africa and it’s always a big honour to represent your country. We’re both really looking forward to it.”

Other leading contenders include the England pairing of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, the German duo of Alex Cejka and Martin Kaymer, the Spanish pair of Miguel Angel Jiménez and Alvaro Quiros and America’s Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland.

A total of 28 teams will battle it out over four days of competition that includes a mixture of foursomes and fourballs and should suit players like Schwartzel and Kuchar who will be coming to China fresh from the Presidents Cup in Australia.

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