The week before his brother Francesco defends the Claret Jug, Edoardo Molinari boosted his hopes of joining him at Royal Portrush by finishing tied for the lead on low-scoring opening day at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
The Italian, hoping to earn one of the three spots on offer for next week’s major in Northern Ireland, is joined at the summit on eight under par by compatriot Nino Bertasio, Frenchman Romain Wattel and American Matt Kuchar.
Molinari led on nine under after two eagles and five birdies before dropping a shot on the eighth, his penultimate hole of the day, to settle for a 63.
Molinari now hopes he can postpone a planned break in Portofino on the Italian Riviera by bagging a place at Portrush.
The 38-year-old, who finished tied ninth at last week’s Irish Open, said: “I was very close to qualifying for the Open last week, I only missed by a couple of shots at the weekend.
“It would obviously be special to be there when Francesco is the defending champion. That would be a great thing.
“But no, I’m not planning on going if I don’t make it in.
“I’ve planned a summer holiday with my wife and two kids, so I definitely won’t go.
“If I’m not at Portrush, I will be lying on the beach in Portofino,” he said.
“I’m not really thinking about the Open just yet. I’m just trying to play some good golf and post low scores here.”
Two of Molinari’s three European Tour titles have come in Scotland when he won the 2010 Scottish Open followed by the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles a month later.
He said: “I have a good record in Scotland, I love playing here and love links golf.
“I also won at Gleneagles, which isn’t links, but I just love it.
“And I love these conditions, love it when the wind blows and that keeps the scoring tight.
“It’s not nice sitting in the players’ lounge on a Thursday seeing the leader already at eight under, knowing you have to go out and play catch-up.
“I’ve been playing really well the past few weeks, some very consistent and solid golf. Today I made quite a few putts, which was nice.”
Co-leader Kuchar, who finished second to Rickie Fowler at Gullane in 2015, said: “The Scottish Open has been great for me.
“I enjoy coming to tournaments that are held at great courses and getting an extra chance to be competitive on links golf.
“Golf is fun when you’re playing well. It’s even fun when you’re not playing well. But right now, when it’s going well, I’m really enjoying it.
South African Trevor Immelman aced the 147-yard 15th on his way to an opening 66.