Florida: Francesco Molinari took a calculated gamble to skip this week`s Italian Open in his hometown of Turin, and so far his decision has paid off at the Players Championship.
Competing for the fourth time on the PGA Tour this year, the Italian hit every green in regulation at the TPC Sawgrass to lie just one stroke off the lead in Friday`s second round.
Molinari, whose only European Tour victory came at the 2006 Italian Open, fired a flawless seven-under-par 65 in ideal scoring conditions to post an 11-under total of 133.
"I was looking forward to playing the Italian Open, especially because it`s in my hometown," the 27-year-old told reporters after becoming the first player to hit all 18 greens in regulation in a single round at Sawgrass since 1992.
"It was a really tough decision for me because I`m not playing there (at the Italian Open) for the first time and I`ve always played decently there.”
"But then I saw it was clashing with the Players and this is one of the tournaments you dream of playing as a kid and you watch on TV. Even if you miss the cut, it`s one of those tournaments that takes you to a different level."
While Molinari is competing this week in the United States, his older brother Edoardo is playing in the Italian Open.
"Obviously they (Italian Open organizers) wanted me to play there but then I think they realised it was really important for me and for my career to come here and play this tournament," the younger Molinari said.
"Luckily they understood, and maybe the fact that Edoardo was playing there helped me a little bit, as well."
Molinari, who in partnership with his brother earned Italy World Cup honours last year for the first time, was wary of thinking too much about a possible victory at Sawgrass.
"It would be great for anyone, especially for someone like me who doesn`t have a status here in the States," he said. "But it`s too far away.
"I just need to keep focus on my game, keep doing the things that I`ve been doing in the last couple of days. It would be great for me to get to Sunday afternoon just with the chance and then I`ll enjoy myself."