Francesco Molinari will make his first competitive appearance since playing a crucial role in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory when he tees up in next week’s Portugal Masters.
Molinari, who won a half point against Tiger Woods in the final singles match to ensure Europe won a sensational contest at Medinah 14½-13½, will be joined by his elder brother Edoardo at the Oceânico Victoria Golf Course.
The presence of the siblings, who played in The 2010 Ryder Cup together and won the 2009 Omega Mission Hills World Cup for Italy, further strengthens an already star-studded field, which includes Europe’s inspirational Ryder Cup Captain, José María Olazábal, and Germany’s Martin Kaymer, whose point in the penultimate singles match against Steve Stricker in the 2012 contest ensured the Samuel Ryder Trophy remained in European hands.
The Vilamoura venue on Portugal’s stunning Algarve is a happy hunting ground for Francesco, who was tied second in 2010 – when he had two rounds of 62 – and runner-up on his own in 2009, two shots behind Lee Westwood.
This year, however, he hopes to continue riding the wave of Ryder Cup glory and go one better to claim his fourth European Tour title.
“The Ryder Cup was unbelievable, and I am looking forward to celebrating with everyone in Portugal next week,” said Francesco.
“I’m looking forward to it because it’s always an excellent week. It’s obviously a course I like because I’ve had some very good results there and I have been unlucky not to win at least once. Hopefully I can put that right this time.
“It’s just a great event. Particularly at this time of year the weather in most of Europe cannot be relied upon to be good, but there it seems the sun always shines.
“The course is always in great condition too. It’s actually usually set up for longer hitters than ball strikers, but I like the greens and see the lines well, so I usually hole a fair amount of putts.
“It’s just a week where I feel very comfortable. I love the hotel and the setting, so hopefully this year will be another good result for me. It’s a good week to take the family. If there is such a thing as an easy, relaxed week on The European Tour, this is it.”
Edoardo’s bid to make his second Ryder Cup appearance was hit by injury, and he did not play for three months during the summer as he recovered from wrist surgery.
The 31 year old made his comeback at the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi last month, and is hoping to rediscover his best form during the run-in to the end of the season.
“I’m very much looking forward to playing in Portugal,” he said. “I’ve played in the tournament the last few years and it’s a fantastic event. It’s a great golf course and the weather is always nice, so it’s always one that everyone looks forward to playing.
“I hope I can play well there. I have been slowly improving since returning from wrist surgery. I know it’s a long way back to top form, but I am completely pain-free now and hitting balls without any worry. Portugal could be a good week for me.”
European Ryder Cup Vice Captains Thomas Björn, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Paul McGinley are also in the field, as are three-time Major Champion Padraig Harrington, 2008 winner Alvaro Quiros and defending champion Tom Lewis.