Molinari magic shows no signs of stopping

12/07/2012 11:27:21
Francesco Molinari  (Getty Images)
Francesco Molinari (Getty Images)
Francesco Molinari’s sensational form continued as the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open began in Inverness.

Nine under par for his last 17 holes of the French Open - he finished second to German Marcel Siem - Molinari was six under midway through his opening round at Castle Stuart Golf Links.

And an outward 30 meant, along with his back-nine 29 on Sunday, The Ryder Cup star had played 18 holes in 59.

The course was there for the taking with soft conditions, wide fairways and only a gentle wind, but the scoring was still impressive.

World Number One and defending champion Luke Donald was in second place at four under after ten holes.

Dane Anders Hansen came off the blocks the quickest, four straight birdies and then another on the 336 yard 16th, his seventh, showing what was possible.

But he bogeyed the par five second, whereas Molinari - back in an automatic qualifying spot for The Ryder Cup - followed a two on the short 11th with five more birdies in a row from the 14th to turn in just 30 strokes.

Donald won last year with a closing 63 that was his best-ever score on The European Tour and he showed his liking for the lay-out again with birdies at the 12th, 16th, 17th.

That put him alongside not only Hansen, but also Italian teenager Matteo Manassero and Denmark's Søren Kjeldsen.

Padraig Harrington was among those only one further back, while Ernie Els was one under after an eventful back nine that contained four birdies, a bogey and a double bogey at the 423 yard 15th.

Molinari drove the green at the 306 yard third and two-putted for his seventh birdie, then hit his tee shot to four feet on the next.

He added yet another on eight under - that made it an incredible 17 under for his last 30 competitive holes - but Donald was only two back as he kicked off the front nine with three successive birdies to make it five in six holes, while Kjeldsen was one further back.

Molinari improved to ten under on the long fifth and suddenly was four clear of the field, with Donald bogeying the 452 yard fifth when a chip failed to make it up a bank left of the green.

There were three holes left for the Italian and if he could birdie them all it would be The European Tour's first 59.

England's Andrew Johnston had a moment to remember, holing in one with an eight iron at the 167 yard 11th and leaping to two under as a result.

The chance of making history went when Molinari could "only" par the seventh and eighth and his lead was reduced to three when Kjeldsen birdied the 12th and 14th to reach seven under, one ahead of Donald.

Els fell eight back when he needed three attempts to get out of a greenside bunker at the long sixth and ran up a seven, his second double bogey of the day.