Italian job at British Open

Hoylake - Matteo Manassero is just one shot off the lead at the Open while brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari gave the Hoylake leaderboard a distinctly Italian flavour after Thursday's first round.

SCOREBOARD: Open Championship - Round 1

The two siblings are just two years apart and a rare combination in professional golf as the older Edoardo matched Francesco's sterling four-under 68 on a day to remember for the Molinari household.

Only Rory McIlroy managed to shoot a better round than the Italian trio with his round of 66 good enough to put the Northern Irishman top of the leaderboard.

"I think, obviously we are three talented guys that work hard, so we're bound to get the results but I don't know if there's a national thing going on at all," said Francesco, who finished tied for ninth at the Open last year at Muirfield.

"It's great to see three Italians up there and I'm sure it's going to be good for the kids watching us at home.

Following Italy's disastrous World Cup campaign in Brazil, where the Azzurri were embarassingly dumped out in the first round at the expense of Costa Rica and Uruguay, national pride may be restored with a potential first win by an Italian at a major championship.

"I think in Italy at the moment, it's more about team sports and football in particular but I'm sure they'll be talking about us tonight and if we can play well, that can only help," added the 31-year-old who resides in London.

The closest an Italian came to lifting the Claret Jug, or even a major, was two-time Ryder Cup winner Costantino Rocca who lost the 1995 Open in heartbreaking fashion.

After sinking a 60ft putt on the 18th green at St. Andrews to force a four-hole playoff against John Daly, the American prevailed to deny the now 57-year-old an historic win.

Manassero, whose best finish at the Open was 13th in 2009 at Turnberry, but missed the cut last year, believes they can keep the Italian connection going right up to Sunday's final round.

"It's fantastic, it's great, I knew they (Molinari's) were playing solid golf because I saw Edoardo in a practice round and he was playing really, really solid," said the 21-year-old Manassero, who only turned professional in 2010.

"I'm alway sure Francesco is going to do something special on this kind of golf course and maybe even more, so it's very good for Italian golf.

"We're all off to a fast start and when you've got three, you don't just have one and there is more chances they're going to stay up there until Sunday.

"It's going to be wonderful to have a few Italians up there on Sunday afternoon and really fun if there is."

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