Molinari's family coronavirus concerns eased before Bay Hill

Miami (AFP) –


Francesco Molinari's concern over family corona virus connections have eased as he prepares to defend his Arnold Palmer Invitational title despite his older brother having been quarantined.

Molinari, the 2018 British Open champion, defends his title Thursday in the US PGA Tour event at Bay Hill in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in his native Italy that has claimed 107 lives with 3,089 cases reported, according to authorities.

Edoardo Molinari, a three-time European Tour winner, was quarantined before last week's Oman Open, but released in time to play the event. He and Francesco were lucky enough to be able to joke about it afterwards.

"I was laughing, actually. If you know my brother, of all people, for it to happen to him, I don't know, I just found it a little bit funny at the beginning," Francesco Molinari said. "But then I spoke to him and he was, I would say, more annoyed than scared because he was feeling well. He had no symptoms.

"But, yeah, joking aside, obviously being Italian it's not a great time back home with the health situation and I don't know, hopefully they can get it sorted somehow quickly."

His parents, Paolo and Micaela, were in Turin, where the outbreak has caused school closings and football postponements.

"I got my parents in Turin, which is one of the areas where they closed schools and cancelled football games, and they're not the youngest anymore, so it's a bit worrying from that point of view," Molinari said.

"But then I spoke to them, I speak to them pretty much on a daily basis, and they're fine. There's nothing too worrying at the moment. So it's trying to keeping the virus contained and it's just, I guess, a matter of time to see if the policies that they have put in place will have a big enough affect. Hopefully they will."

The US PGA Tour said in a statement it has no schedule changes planned for now but continues to monitor the situation.

"So far, luckily, it doesn't seem to have an impact on us directly," Molinari said. "It's definitely having an impact there. Hopefully it won't get to that stage over here."

- 'Amazing' final round in '19 -

For the moment, the younger Molinari sibling is hoping to match the success he enjoyed last year at Bay Hill, when he capped a stunning 8-under par 64 final round with a 43-foot birdie putt on the final hole to secure the victory on the Orlando, Florida, layout.

"Just an amazing round, probably one of the best rounds I've played in my career," Molinari said.

"I remember starting the day thinking there was maybe half a chance, but I was quite a long way back and with a few guys between me and the lead.

"Just played an incredible round, played well, putted really well, and obviously finished it off with that putt on 18 that I think will always be one of the highlights of my career."

Molinari has four top-10 finishes in seven starts at the event.

"This is a course that if it firms up and it gets a bit breezy, it's a really tough test," he said. "You can still shoot 64 and 65, but you need to do a lot of things well to do that."

Molinari was last year's 54-hole leader at the Masters but found the water at the par-3 12th and par-5 15th for double bogeys to doom his green jacket bid.

He has some work to do to prepare his game for next month's trip to Augusta National.

"I'm a little bit behind where I was planning to be. The start of the season has not been as good as I hoped for," he said. "There's work I need to do to be physically better and fitter than I am right now and technically to be sharper, so that's the plan for the next few weeks."