Omega Mission Hills World Cup Day One (Getty Images)
Edoardo and Francesco Molinari will make history this week when they become the first brothers to play in a World Golf Championship event at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship and they both admit they are brimming with confidence heading into their debuts.
The Italian siblings have both enjoyed a spectacular past 12 months, winning the Omega Mission Hills World Cup together, and Francesco finishing 14th in the inaugural Race to Dubai while Edoardo, the elder brother, dominated the European Challenge Tour to climb into the World’s Top 50.
Their reward has been a place among the golfing elite gathered at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, where the pair will find themselves together again in the Sam Snead division of the draw, although they cannot meet until the last eight.
Francesco said: “It feels great to be here, because it's something we earned the last season. I think it's like a bonus for our performances last year, and it was our goal to be here and feels really good.
“We are here to play against the best, to improve our game and hopefully to do well. So I think the goal, at least at the start of the week, in every tournament, is to win. So we are here to play our best golf and see how far we can go.”
Edoardo will make his debut in the event again Open Champion Stewart Cink, while it’s Zach Johnson first up for Francesco, with both brothers feeling they have more than earned their place in the field.
“It's a very good feeling to be the first brothers in this event, because both of us have been playing quite well for the last two years,” said Edoardo. “So it's going to be good fun this week.
“Stewart Cink is a very good player, and he has a great record here, so it's going to be a very difficult match, but I have nothing to lose. I'm playing quite well at the moment. So hopefully I can enjoy the game and hopefully come out on top.”
Indeed, such has been Edoardo’s own personal renaissance that he tees it up in Tucson, Arizona, as the higher ranked player out of the two – at 45th in the world compared to Francesco’s 46th .
It is the first time Edoardo has edged ahead of his younger brother – a fact not lost in their sibling rivalry when asked if they had both seen the latest Official World Golf Ranking.
“I have!,” quipped Edoardo. “We haven’t joked about it – I don’t know if he’s in the mood to joke!
“Last year I played very well – I was very consistent on the Challenge Tour and had to win a lot of points to get ahead of him then I won more in Japan, and on Tour this year in Dubai and South Africa in December. I think even if I'm ahead now, Francesco is still better than I am, honestly. And I still have some ground to make up. But I'm getting closer.”
One player who made his debut in this event last year is Rory McIlroy, who reached the quarter-finals on his professional debut in the United States before losing to eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy.
McIlroy has been in superb form so far in 2010 and is on a run of five consecutive top ten finishes which stretches back to the end of last season.
The 20 year old – who starts against American Kevin Na - believes a niggling back injury will not harm his chances of success.
“This was my first tournament in the States as a pro last year and I played pretty well,” he said. “I got through three rounds and got beaten by the eventual winner, Geoff. I felt as if I played well last year.
“It's a course that is a good match play course, you have to really think about your second shots into these slopey greens, and you have to really think about where you're putting the ball.
“I played a practice round today and the course is playing really well again. The greens are a little firmer than what they were last year, which is going to make it a little tricky. But I think it's a really good course that everyone enjoys. This format is a bit different than what we usually play. It's nice to away from stroke play for a little bit.
“I keep putting myself in good positions to win golf tournaments and that's one of my goals this year, is to try to turn those good finishes into wins. I've played great the last few months and just got to try to keep it going.
“Kevin Na is a great competitor though, and I'm sure I'll have my hands full.”
One of the stand out first round matches could prove to be between European Number One Lee Westwood and his fellow Englishman Chris Wood, who makes his WGC debut.
Wood benefitted from Tiger Woods’ continued absence and the withdrawal of Phil Mickelson to secure a place in the field and is looking forward to pitting his wits against a player he shared third place with in last year’s Open Championship.
"I don't know Lee that well, but I have played a few rounds with him. He'd be a big scalp for me, of course - he's the second seed - and I can't wait for it."