Molinari sets early marker

10/6/2011 1:21:12 PM
Edoardo Molinari  (Getty Images)
Edoardo Molinari (Getty Images)
A sparkling opening round of 66 gave Italian Edoardo Molinari the clubhouse lead at the Bankia Madrid Masters.

The Ryder Cup star parred his first eight holes at El Encin Golf Hotel, but got his round up and running with a birdie at the 18th to turn one under par.

That was followed by a sensational inward nine 31, an eagle three at the first followed by three birdies.

Two-time European Tour winner Molinari could have gone even lower, having missed a six foot birdie chance at the seventh.

But at six under par the World Number 55 was still the man to catch in the Spanish capital.

“A good solid round,” said the 30 year old. “It was very nice to play with Luke [Donald] and Alvaro [Quiros], and I think the three of us played very well.

“I didn’t play very well on the front nine, but I hit two great shots on 18 and from then on I played some really good golf.”

Alongside him on six under was Tano Goya, the Argentine having two holes left to play.

Like Molinari, the former Madeira Islands Open champion eagled the first and then proceeded to add four birdies.

England’s Steve Webster and Spanish pair Alvaro Quiros and Eduardo De La Riva were one shot further back on five under.

Webster had two bogeys but also seven birdies - the highlight a 20 footer at the seventh.

A European Tour regular for 16 years, Webster is currently 133rd on The Race to Dubai, with only the top 115 keeping their playing cards.

“I took a lot of confidence from last week with the long putter,” he said. “Tee to green I’m playing good, I’m just finishing it off now.”

Big-hitting Quiros has only recently returned from a problematic wrist injury, but last year’s Open de España winner finished with three birdies in his last four holes - a run started by an eight foot effort at the sixth which circled the cup before dropping.

“I’m very pleased coming back,” said the World Number 41. “I’m trying to enjoy my job. I don’t feel any pain, but after seven weeks without practising I’m a bit rusty.”

De La Riva has never had a top tern finish on The European Tour and lost his card a year after coming through Qualifying School in 2002.

But a hattrick of gains from the seventh saw him move into contention in only his second European Tour event of the year.

World Number One and defending champion Luke Donald was amongst those on four under par, one ahead of former Ryder Cup star Oliver Wilson - who at 138th on The Race to Dubai needs a big end to his season to retain full playing rights.

“I felt like I left a few out there,” said Donald. “A couple of careless mistakes but a lot of solid golf in there too.”

Goya bogeyed the 17th to fall into a four-way tie for second as the afternoon starters began their rounds.

Amongst the first to shine were Ross McGowan and Jaco Van Zyl, who both birdied three of their first four holes.

Also in the afternoon wave were tournament host Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, two-time Major winner John Daly and Ryder Cup Swede Henrik Stenson.

Wales’ Bradley Dredge joined the tie for second when he finished with back-to-back birdies, and there were no fewer than six players hot on Molinari’s heels when Fernandez-Castaño made a blistering start.

Down at 193rd on The Race to Dubai after a year plagued by back problems, the four-time European Tour winner eagled the first and birdied four of the next six to join Molinari.

McGowan birdied five in a row from the ninth, but failing to get up and down from the edge of the 15th cost him a second bogey of the day, while Fernandez-Castaño birdied the 13th to reach seven under.

He was joined by Australian Brett Rumford - another player outside the all-important top 115 - who played the back nine in 33 shots before birdieing four of his first six holes on the way in.