Francesco Molinari: Taming the Tiger
Francesco Molinari and Tiger Woods are pretty well-acquainted at this point.
At the start of this month, it was Woods who stood on the 18th green and handed the Italian his trophy after victory at the TPC Potomac.
They were also united back in 2012 at Medinah when Molinari and Team Europe completed that most remarkable of fight backs to down the Americans.
So with all that in his back pocket, it can be of little surprise that Molinari did not blink when paired with the great man on Sunday at Carnoustie.
WOODS ON CHARGE
While Woods was making his run on the front nine – even taking the outright lead around the turn with birdies at holes four and six – Molinari never looked ruffled.
They should have called him Moli-par-ri – such was his consistency – an intention he had stated the night before.
“It’s not a day to be aggressive. It is more a day to make as many pars as possible,” he told reporters.
MOLINARI KEEPS COOL
While many others have crumbled in the face of Woods’ majesty – only YE Yang before Molinari had won a major when paired with Woods on a Sunday – the Italian kept his cool.
The real turning point came at the 11th when Woods lost his iron off the tee, duffed a chip and missed a ten-footer to sign for a double bogey six.
Meanwhile the 35-year-old Italian continued his steady move – and when he birdied 14 suddenly the Italian was in the pound seats.
While the likes of Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy struggled – Molinari more than merited his victory.
Indeed he was the only player from the final four groups to finish his Sunday round under par – and all the more impressive was how he finished it all off.
He had taken the best that Tiger Woods had to offer – a Woods who is now back in the big time competing for the biggest prizes in the game – and matched him.
And on the 18th – so often the slayer of Major dreams at Carnoustie – just ask Jean van de Velde – he watched Woods chip to within six feet and then went one better and rolled his approach even closer.
Of course, the putt went in as well and Molinari punched the air, signed for a 69 and then waited for his two-shot victory to be confirmed.
YANG GOES BANG
Woods will take some consolation from how well he has recovered and that his name at the top of a leaderboard still carries some weight.
Just look at the way some of his rivals caved when he hit the front at Carnoustie.
But Molinari was, unfrotuantely, not one of them and neither was YE Yang back in 2009 at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
The South Korean had won the Honda Classic that year on the PGA Tour, but never before tasted success – compared to Woods’ 70 titles and counting at the time.
With a win today, Molinari would be the first player to win a major when playing on Sunday with Tiger Woods since YE Yang at the 2009 PGA.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 22, 2018
In the final pairing, Woods started the day ahead by two shots but had no answer to Yang who became the first man to lift a major when playing with Woods on a Sunday.
And then, nine years later, it was Molinari who did the business at Carnoustie to become the first Italian to lift the Claret Jug.