Golf-Molinari takes a hike but still U.S. Open contention

By Steve Keating

By Steve Keating

PEBBLE BEACH, CA., June 14 (Reuters) - They come from around the world to play Pebble Beach and enjoy the seaside layout's spectacular vistas but Italy's Francesco Molinari saw far more than he wanted in a costly second round U.S. Open hike on Friday.

Playing the back nine first and cruising along at two-under par enjoying the view from near top of the leaderboard, the Italian suddenly veered off course at the eighth hole when he sent his tee shot over the cliffs into a tangle of brush.

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The misfire resulted in Molinari and course marshals looking like a herd of mountain goats, precariously poking around the cliffside in search of a ball which was eventually found but unplayable.

The side trip costed Molinari a double-bogey six and when that was followed by a bogey at the ninth to close out his round, the British Open champion was left with a one-over 72 wondering what might have been.

"I liked it more before the last two holes," said Molinari. "But, yeah, I mean, it's fine. I can -- I did what I could.

"Could have been easily a few over par, and I just fought with what I had. So I need to play better the next couple of days."

Despite his second round woes Molinari did not play himself out of contention and remained in the chasing pack five shots behind pacesetting Justin Rose at two-under 140.

"I did what I could out there," said Molinari. "Lots of good up-and-downs and yeah, a shame about the finish, but it was only halfway.

"So I need to hit the ball and be better than today if I want to contend at the weekend." (Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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