This afternoon, Edoardo Molinari, at 29 the older of the two Ryder Cup brothers, is having a meeting in Turin with his local coach, Sergio Bertaina, and with his “Tour” coach, Denis Pugh. The three will discuss Edoardo’s preparations for the Ryder Cup and, at the same time, they will talk of his longer-term plan. Namely, to reach No. 1 on the world rankings.
For the record, Pugh expects him to make it.
A kindred meeting will take place later in the month in London where the younger brother, the 28-year-old Francesco, has his base. Francesco shares the same dream as Edoardo and, yes, Pugh expects him to make it, too.
The brothers may speak about their common aim when they are together but there is an unwritten rule that Bertaina and Pugh work with them as individuals, never together. When one of the brothers is having a lesson or a tête-à-tête with one or both of the coaches, the other brother never gets a mention.
Pugh, who also coaches Ross Fisher from the ranks of the European team, laughs at the rumour which went the rounds during the recent Johnnie Walker tournament, the last counting event for Ryder Cup purposes. The rumour in question was that Francesco, the third-round leader, backed off on the last day in order that Edoardo might win and have a better chance of joining him in the team.
“There wasn’t a hope in hell of that,” said Pugh. “When they’re on the golf course, neither of Edoardo or Francesco wants to beat anyone more than he wants to beat his brother. They’ve always been like that.”
Off the course, they never row about anything other than their respective football teams. “Even as children,” said Edoardo, “we didn’t fight. A lot of brothers will bring the worst out in each other when they play golf or tennis against each other but we never have. While wanting to beat each other we remain the best of friends.”
Pugh has his own take on the above. Knowing the Molinaris as well as he does, he suspects that Francesco would have decided at the outset that there was no point in ever arguing with Edoardo. “Other than Padraig Harrington,” says the coach, lightly, “I’ve never known anyone who can argue better than Edoardo does, even if it’s from a losing position.”
The Welsh valley that is home to the 2010 Ryder Cup course will be awash with passion during the Ryder Cup week. In fact, it will be worth going to the opening ceremony to hear the Welsh national anthem alone.
But, if the atmosphere at the recent Omega European Masters in the cosmopolitan resort of Crans was anything to go by, the Italian supporters and, of course, the Spanish, will bring their own brand of excitement to the match. When Miguel Angel Jimenez was playing alongside Edoardo Molinari and the 17-year-old Matteo Manassero in the third round of the above event, there were whistles and cheers for the players around every green.
As luck would have it, Edoardo’s parents and friends were able to witness all six of the birdies the trio made at the seventh and eighth from the balcony of their apartment, a holiday home that has been in the family for 15 years and more.
It comes as no surprise that the Molinaris’ father is a dentist and their mother a teacher. In Italy, you need money to play golf, with the grass roots of the game currently a long way removed from the Olympic ideal.
For decades, the best Italians played only as amateurs. All that has changed but, even now, parents are apt to insist that their offspring do as the Molinaris in finishing college before they start playing for pay. Pugh says he is all for the continuing education, though he notes that the way in which the teenage Manassero has moved from the amateur to the professional ranks suggests that attitudes are softening.
There is no question that the Molinari brothers’ education, coupled with their Italian sense of style, serves them well on the golf course. Much the same applies to their technique.
The Italian language may be more than somewhat flowery but these young men’s swings are anything but. Though Pugh never attempted to alter Colin Montgomerie’s relatively long and flowing action when he worked with him, he has encouraged the brothers to keep their backswings short, with a minimum of wrist action. “The reason they don’t swing back far is that their power emanates from their body turn or, to be more precise, the spring in their core muscles,” explains the coach.
When it comes to the week at Celtic Manor, an understandably proud Pugh suggests that everyone who follows the brothers will be struck by the quality of their striking and their general all-round skill. At the same time, he thinks that people will pick up on the bright-eyed passion and the pluck which could take them to the very top.