Francesco Molinari wore a caddie’s boilersuit on his first visit to The Masters - but is now excited to be a genuine contender for a Green Jacket.
It was his older brother, Edoardo, who was in the spotlight in 2006, when he teed up at Augusta National as the US Amateur champion, having become the first Continental European to claim that prize the previous year.
Francesco, who had just started out on the European Tour, caddied for Edoardo that week before getting his first taste of the event as a player himself four years later.
“I carried the clubs and prayed that he was going to hit good shots,” said Francesco, laughing, as he recalled that maiden visit during his pre-tournament press conference for this week’s 83rd staging.
“No, it was a fun week. I think I got here after missing a cut on the European Tour at the start of my second season on Tour. I just got the full caddie experience.
“I was trying to help him out on the course, and it was fun. It was great to be here. It wasn’t fun trying to pick clubs for him. It’s a tough course to caddie around.
“You know, when you stand on the 12th tee, you just hope to make a right decision, but it’s really not easy, especially when where we both very inexperienced at this level at the time.”
Following rounds of 80-77, Edorado, who won both the Scottish Open and Johnnie Walker Championship in 2010 after turning professional, missed the cut, with Francesco admitting: “We were just trying to make the most of those two days, to be honest.”
Thirteen years on, Francesco is heading into the season’s opening major as one of the leading contenders and the Open champion has pinpointed exactly when he set the plan in motion that has transformed him into one of the game’s superstars.
“In the last round of The Open at Royal Liverpool (in 2014), I played in the third round with Rory [McIlroy] and Dustin [Johnson], and I just didn’t have a chanc,” he admitted. “I could play as well as I wanted, but I didn’t stand a chance.
“That was a big turning point for me. It’s all about perspective and how you take things. I took it like, if I want to keep doing this job and do it at a high level, I need to work as hard as I can and see if I can get closer to those guys.
“So what that did for me is now when I play with Brooks [Koepka] or Dustin or Rory or whoever you can name, I’m not really intimidated because I feel like I can compete with them, even if I’m not hitting the ball 370 yards.
“I’m hitting it long enough to be competitive and to use my strengths to get good performances in.”