Molinari sighting at Scottish Open as Edoardo ties for lead

England's Ian Poulter is watched by a fan wearing a dinosaur costume during the second round of the Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, North Berwick, Britain, on Friday. — Reuters

NORTH BERWICK — While Francesco Molinari prepares to defend his British Open crown next week, older brother Edoardo is still trying to qualify for the final major championship of the year.

He took a positive step on Thursday with an eight-under-par 63 that earned a share of the lead with Italian Nino Bertasio, American Matt Kuchar and France's Romain Wattel after the first round of the Scottish Open in North Berwick.

The top three finishers at the Renaissance Club on Sunday not already exempt will punch late tickets to Royal Portrush, and Molinari likes his chances. "I'm in a good place at the minute," said the 38-year-old Italian, who is enjoying a recent resurgence after a few years in the doldrums.

A tie for ninth at the Irish Open last week following a tie for third at the BMW International Open last month suggested good things are around the corner for the Italian.

"It seems like every week I'm playing better. I'm building something every week and when you play golf like this, it's quite easy but then everything can change in a very short amount of time."

Edoardo would know. The 2005 US amateur champion seemed destined for a glittering career when he won the 2010 Scottish Open and played on the winning European Ryder Cup team the same year, only to subsequently regress due partly to a thumb injury that required surgery.

Francesco, on the other hand, went from strength to strength and is now ranked seventh in the world, 359 spots above his brother.

Edoardo was certainly not the only player to take advantage of soft conditions and little breeze on Thursday, when 93 players broke 70, among them Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy and American Justin Thomas, both on 67.

Joint leader Kuchar, in perhaps the best form of his career at age 41, eagled both par-fives on the back nine and added six birdies, along with two bogeys. "I still feel like a 26-year-old kid," said world No. 13 Kuchar, the 2017 British Open runner-up to Jordan Spieth.

"Golf is fun when you're playing well, it's even fun when you're not playing well. Right now I'm really enjoying it. I still feel that excitement for the game, love for the game. I come to a place like this and I can't wait to play here, and I can't wait to play next week."

Immelman, Samooja ace

same hole at Scottish Open

Trevor Immelman scored a hole-in-one at the 15th at the Scottish Open on Thursday and could not even boast the first ace of the day at the hole. Finland's Kalle Samooja had already achieved the feat at the 115-yard downhill hole at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick.

But that hardly detracted from Immelman's excitement as the former Masters champion watched in delight as his ball landed a yard or so beyond the pin and spun back into the hole. "To be honest I was just trying to get it on the green there," the South African told golf Channel.

"I had a nice feel with my swing, playing into a bit of a breeze I was just trying to knock down some kind of a wedge. It came out perfect, started spinning up into the breeze, was looking really good. Because the tee's elevated I saw it go in and saw the crowd erupt, so pretty cool moment there for me."

The ace helped Immelman to a five-under 66 in the first round, while Samooja shot a 64 that left him a shot behind a four-way tie for the lead. Immelman, 39, is a part-time player these days, working mainly as a television analyst with golf Channel in the United States.

Samooja is in his first season on the European Tour at the age of 31, and he took his second ace of the year in his stride. "It's the same as making an eagle," he said. "Two shots off the scorecard and you just need to move on. There's a lot of golf to play, so just try to forget it as quick as possible." — Reuters