HE MAY have helped put Italy on the golfing map but Francesco Molinari reckons he is more likely to be recognised walking down the High Street in Auchterarder than his home city of Turin.
“Probably in football, I’d be the standard of a Second Division player,” he replied when asked where he and his older brother, Edoardo, ranked among sporting heroes in their homeland.
In a football-mad country, it’s a situation Francesco understands, although their performances have been far from second-rate.
They joined forces to record Italy’s first World Cup win in 2009, played together on a winning Ryder Cup team in Wales the following year and have racked up five European Tour wins between them.
“Italy is very much football-centred, so there’s not much room for other sports,” admitted Francesco, who was also involved in the “Miracle at Medinah” last year.
“We can easily go down the streets without being recognised, but we’ve had our recognition, especially after we won the World Cup – I think that was a big step.”
Both Molinaris took their first steps at Gleneagles as teenagers on a family holiday and it has since become a special place in the hearts of both – Edoardo won the Johnnie Walker Championship here in 2010.
“I was probably 15 when I came here for the first time as part of a tour of Scotland with Edoardo, our parents and another family,” recalled Francesco, the world No 42 and highest-ranked player in this week’s field. “It was quite a special week and I always enjoy coming back here. It feels like a second home.”
He said it would be “amazing” if the pair could make next year’s Ryder Cup in Perthshire, although Edoardo will have to play catch-up, as he recently underwent surgery for a troublesome thumb and is unlikely to play before November.