(Reuters) - 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 U.S. 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 number 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."
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)