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Francesco Molinari is proving to be a quick study.

The world's 15th-ranked player had never seen TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in suburban Washington, D.C., before he lapped the field by eight strokes two weeks ago.

Molinari had never stepped foot on the property at TPC Deere Run until a nine-hole practice round Tuesday afternoon. 

Through two rounds of the $5.8 million John Deere Classic, Molinari is in contention for his second PGA Tour victory in as many starts.

The 35-year-old Italian followed up his first-round 65 with a 5-under 66 Friday morning and trailed leader Michael Kim by 5 shots when play was suspended Friday night. 

"It's a nice course here," said Molinari, who has six straight rounds in the 60s on the PGA Tour. "It's a course that there is not many blind shots, not many tricks or anything like that. It's all in front of you.

"People are really friendly, really great and everyone has been welcoming me."

Molinari hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens for the second consecutive day. He made a 34-foot birdie putt at the par-4 fourth, one of six birdies in his round. 

"I had some mistakes on the back nine, our front nine, but I managed to keep the round going with some good putting today," Molinari said. "The game is still there. I think I can hit my irons a little bit better, especially the wedges.

"I have been doing a lot of things well, and I need to keep that going."

Molinari has won five times and pocketed nearly $8 million on the European Tour.

Still, he has been a relative unknown on the PGA Tour until recently. He earned his first win on the Tour in 121 starts at the Quicken Loans National with a final round 62.

He called that win massive for how he's perceived in the United States.

"I felt like that was the next step in my career to get more recognition over here, and to win on Tour obviously helps a lot," he said. "Hopefully there is more wins to come."

After his win, Molinari jetted back home to London to help his child finish school last week. Molinari flew back for this week's JDC and will hop on the charter jet Sunday night to play in the Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland.

"It's not easy, but I've been doing it all year this year and the last few years," he said. "You get used to it."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.