Francesco Molinari: From caddie to leading the Masters

(CNN) On his first visit to the Masters in 2006 he was a bundle of nerves as he shared the first tee with defending champion Tiger Woods.

But Italy's Francesco Molinari wasn't playing, he was dressed in the distinctive white jumpsuit of an Augusta National caddie, lugging the bag for his older brother Edoardo. Fast-forward 13 years, and Francesco, last year's British Open champion, leads the 83rd Masters halfway through round two. Instead of a white suit, a green jacket beckons. The 36-year-old, the world No.7, had been a pro for two years when "Dodo," as he has always called his elder brother by two years, qualified for the Masters as the US amateur champion. The pair had struck a deal as kids -- if one gets to the Masters, the other caddies. READ: Woods close as Koepka and DeChambeau lead the Masters Read More READ: Tiger Woods: I don't need to win the Masters, but I really want to' Francesco Molinari (center) caddies for brother Edoardo (left) with Tiger Woods in the 2006 Masters. Stacked leaderboard But Francesco has eclipsed Dodo in recent years, and hit a hot streak last summer with a win either side of the Atlantic before holding off a resurgent Woods in the Open at Carnoustie to clinch his maiden major title. A 5-under-par 67 gives @F_Molinari the lead in the Clubhouse during the second round of #themasters

— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 12, 2019 He then became the first European player to win all five of his matches in the Ryder Cup , winning legions more fans in his partnership with Englishman Tommy Fleetwood in Paris -- the pair became known as "Moliwood." Francesco also won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill earlier this season and was third at the recent WGC Match Play. His 67 Friday lifted him to seven under where he was joined by Australia's former world No.1 Jason Day, and first-round co-leader Brooks Koepka, who has won three of his last six majors. Molinari's round included five birdies and no bogeys, and just 25 putts, but he insisted it wasn't as easy as it looked. "It never feels smooth around here," Molinari, whose best finish in seven Masters has been tied 19th in 2012, told Sky Sports. Still on the course, four-time champion Tiger Woods birdied the ninth and 11th to reach four under and had a putt from a few feet for another birdie on the short 12th when the siren sounded to suspend play because of the threat of thunderstorms. READ: Dave Alred: The guru teaching golfers think like 'assassins' Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos The Masters, Augusta – The opening major of the golf season is the Masters from Augusta, Georgia every April. It's a spring rite, steeped in tradition and layered in rich sporting history and drama. It's an event that attracts even non-golfers because of the sublime beauty of the course. Click through the gallery for an A-Z of the Masters. Hide Caption 1 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos A is for Augusta National – The revered course has hosted the year's opening major -- and the only one of the big four events to be played at the same course every year -- since 1934. A is also for the azaleas which traditionally blossom during Masters week and for Amen Corner , the infamous stretch of holes incorporating the 11th, the treacherous short 12th and the tee shot on the par-five 13th. Hide Caption 2 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos B is for Beauty – The Georgian greensward is an oasis among the urban landscape of Augusta, Georgia's second city on the banks of the Savannah River. The bars, burger joints and shopping malls of neighboring Washington Road are in stark contrast to the golfing dreamscape over the fence. B is also for Seve Ballesteros, the Spaniard who opened the European floodgates with wins in 1980 and 1983. Hide Caption 3 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos C is for Caddies – Augusta's caddies are instantly recognizable by their white jump suits. Before 1983, players had to use a club caddie, all of whom were local black men. Since then players have used their usual tour caddies, but they must still don the white suit and green cap. Hide Caption 4 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos D is for Dos and Don'ts – The hallowed property is governed by its own strict rules such as no running or cell phones, but on the flip side traditions exist such as the practice of placing your green Masters chair at your preferred spot and being able to return to your vacant seat hours later. Hide Caption 5 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos E is for Eisenhower – Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a member of Augusta National and several landmarks of his era remain, including Ike's Pond, the fishing lake he championed that is the focal point of the Par-3 Contest. Eisenhower's white cabin also sits near the clubhouse. Hide Caption 6 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos F is for Fans (make that Patrons) – Visitors to Augusta National are known as patrons -- not fans or spectators or the crowd. Tickets are like gold dust, but a limited number of practice round tickets and tournament days are available through a yearly ballot. The waiting list for weekly tournament badges closed years ago. Hide Caption 7 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos G is for Grand Slam – Rory McIlroy just needs the Masters to complete the Grand Slam of all four of golf's major titles. The Northern Irishman blew a four-shot lead at Augusta in 2011, but having won four majors in the meantime returns for his fifth shot at the Grand Slam this week. Only five others have achieved the feat -- Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. G is also for greens -- the slick, sloping putting surfaces are infamous. Hide Caption 8 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos H is for History – Augusta National was created by Scottish golf course architect Dr. Alister Mackenzie and co-founder Bobby Jones and opened in 1933 on land that was once the site of Fruitlands Nursery. During World War II the land was briefly given over to turkey and cattle farming. Hide Caption 9 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos I is for Internationals – South African Gary Player -- pictured here in 2014 with Jack Nicklaus (left) and the late Arnold Palmer -- was the first international champion in 1961. Since then the Masters has been won 21 times by overseas players. The US counts for 60 wins from 37 different players. Hide Caption 10 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos J is for Jacket, as in green – The tropical-weight emerald blazer is worn by only Augusta National members and Masters champions. It was first introduced for members in 1937 and ordered from Brooks Uniform Company in New York. Sam Snead was the first winner to receive a jacket and honorary membership in 1949. The reigning Masters champion can take it home for a year, then it must be kept at the club. Hide Caption 11 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos K is for Key holes – The saying goes the Masters doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday. It starts with one of the hardest holes on the course in the 10th and then enters Amen Corner with the equally tough 11th and then the booby trap of the short 12th. But the long 15th (pictured) is key -- big moves can be made with eagles here. Anything less than a birdie and you will likely go backwards. Hide Caption 12 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos L is for Lane, as in Magnolia Lane – The exclusive driveway to Augusta's historic clubhouse is framed by dozens of magnolia trees. Only members and Masters competitors are allowed to access this revered entrance which gives on to the Founder's Circle and then the whitewashed concrete clubhouse, built in 1854. Hide Caption 13 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos M is for Mickelson – Popular left-hander Phil Mickelson is one of 17 players to have won multiple Masters titles. The three-time champion won the first of his five major titles at Augusta in 2004 after three straight third places. Even at 48, Mickelson remains a Masters threat. Hide Caption 14 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos N is for Nicklaus, as in Jack – The most successful player at the Masters is Jack Nicklaus, whose six Green Jackets remains the record. The 79-year-old is now an honorary starter along with Gary Player, following the death of four-time champion Arnold Palmer in 2016. Hide Caption 15 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos O is for Oak tree – The famous old oak tree on the course side of the clubhouse is an iconic landmark and the traditional meeting place for the game's movers and shakers and media types with the correct credential. A familiar refrain of Masters week is: "Meet you under the tree." Hide Caption 16 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos P is for Par 3s, notably the 12th – Perhaps the most famous short hole in golf, the par-3 12th sits at the heart of Amen Corner. Like a wolf in sheep's clothing, it is just 155 yards long, but Rae's Creek looms large in front and a devilish wind always swirling around the trees makes club selection tricky. Hide Caption 17 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos Q is for Quonset Hut – Modern media are housed in a recently built state-of-the-art facility at the far end of the practice range, but in days gone by the stories from Augusta were crafted in a corrugated metal Quonset Hut. Hide Caption 18 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos R is for Roars – When the excitement rises on a Sunday afternoon and the patrons reach fever pitch, the roars reverberate around the towering pines which act like a giant organ reflecting the noise all over the course. A Phil Mickelson roar stands out, but a roar for Tiger Woods is like no other. Hide Caption 19 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos S is for Spieth – Jordan Spieth was on a fast track to being crowned the new king of Augusta following his wire-to-wire victory in 2015 and dominance for three rounds in 2016. He was still clear with nine holes to play before famously self destructing with two balls in the water on 12. The American has struggled of late and is down to 33rd in the world, but in five Masters appearances he has won, finished second twice, come third and 11th. Hide Caption 20 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos T is for Tradition – The Masters is forward looking but rooted in tradition, such as the pre-tournament Par-3 Contest, in which friends and family members caddie for the players and hit the occasional shot. Jack Nicklaus' grandson Gary made a hole in one last year. Other traditions include the Champions Dinner, in which the holder chooses the menu and hosts the evening on the Tuesday of Masters week Hide Caption 21 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos U is for Under par – When Jordan Spieth won in 2015 he equaled Tiger Woods' 1997 record for the lowest winning score at 18 under par. Hide Caption 22 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos V is for Views – Augusta's vistas are consistently spell-binding with the pines framing the holes and the lush grass, ice white of the bunkers and explosions of color from the flowers and patrons adding to the allure. Hide Caption 23 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos W is for Woods – Who else? Tiger Woods changed golf when he won his first major by a record 12 shots in 1997. He went on to win three further Green Jackets, the last of which came in 2005 after a famous chip-in on the 16th. The 43-year-old is fit again after multiple back surgeries, and among the widely tipped contenders. Hide Caption 24 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos X is for X-factor – Winning the Masters requires a game in mint condition and a bit of something special. Think Tiger Woods' chip-in on the 16th in 2005, or Phil Mickelson's shot threaded through trees on the 13th in 2010. Or what about Bubba Watson's banana ball from the woods on the 10th to clinch a play off in 2012 (pictured)? Hide Caption 25 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos Y is for Youngest winner – Tiger Woods' 1997 win for the first of 14 majors so far made him the youngest Masters champion at the age of 21. Hide Caption 26 of 27 Photos: The Masters: A-Z in photos Z is for Zenith – For many players, winning the Masters represents the zenith of their career. Phil Mickelson's jump for joy in 2004 at his 11th attempt kick started an era which yielded further victories in 2006 and 2010. Hide Caption 27 of 27 Performance under pressure His rise, under the long-time swing tutelage of Denis Pugh, has coincided with his decision three years ago to work with performance mentor Dave Alred, the guru behind England's World Cup-winning rugby star Jonny Wilkinson and who also helped steer Luke Donald to golf's world No.1 slot. Alred's modus operandi is to make practice as accountable and pressurised as match day, and Molinari has blossomed under his wing. He is bidding to become only the fifth reigning Open champion to win the Masters, and the first since Woods in 2001. "It was pretty solid, not many mistakes, and when I missed greens I missed on the good side. Obviously a very good day," he added. The patron roars can be heard clear across the course. #themasters

— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 12, 2019 Day, the 2015 US PGA champion, struggled to walk Thursday after suffering a recurrence of a back injury as he kissed his young daughter before the first round. But intensive physio helped him to a round of 67 Friday as looks to improve on second on his debut in 2011 and third two years later. "Walking this golf course was a little bit tough but it loosened nicely," Day told Sky Sports after round two. "I feel good, I may bend down and give my daughter a kiss a bit differently." READ: Amen Corner: A former champion's guide to the toughest stretch in golf Visit for more news, features and video Koepka, who held off Tiger Woods to win the US PGA last summer for a second straight major and third in 14 months, was the only player without a bogey on Thursday but made a disastrous start Friday with a double bogey on the second. But he fought back to card 71 and remain at the top, one clear of South African debutant Justin Harding and world No.2 Dustin Johnson (68), who is chasing a second major to add to his 2016 US Open title. "It helps having three majors under your belt," said Koepka, who missed last year's Masters with a wrist injury. "It gives you confidence. I like showing up on the big stages."