Open win yet to sink in for Molinari
As Francesco Molinari walked across the bridge over the back of the 18th green on Monday, he stopped to take a picture – Claret Jug in one hand, iPhone in the other.
Like everyone else, he wanted a snapshot of where his boyhood dreams came true less than 24 hours before.
The 35-year-old admits it is going to take some time for what happened at Carnoustie to sink in after he powered to victory and became Italy’s first Champion Golfer of the Year. Join the club.
Sunday afternoon at The Open is always a drama-filled sporting rollercoaster but, with a seven-man play-off at one point realistic, this will not be forgotten.
It had all the ingredients. Tiger Woods right in the thick of it? Check. Defending champion Jordan Spieth aiming to be just the third man in history to win four majors by 25? Check. Justin Rose, 20 years after making his breakthrough as an amateur, closing in on a first Claret Jug and the world number one ranking? Check.
In the end it was Molinari, the quiet man from Turin, who kept his cool and took home the title of Champion Golfer. He did not drop a shot on the weekend, underlining how impressive his performance was.
Now, he’s at the centre of the golf world and, as an adopted Londoner, he is going to have to get used to being in front of the camera instead of behind it
“I was getting some attention on the tube already but now it might be a different story,” he said.
“I will try and hide for a few days and hopefully things will have calmed down a bit. It is starting to sink in but it will take a few more days when I go home, sit down and reflect on what has happened.
“It is amazing to look at the trophy and see the list of names with yours there. It is really special. I could not sleep much on Sunday.
“I was with my wife, my agent and my caddie and reflected on the week. It was nice to do that with the people I love.”
Now Molinari must decide who gets the Claret Jug when during the next year, with family and friends all desperate to see and hold it.
In Italy, he has become a national hero overnight – even bumping the Ferrari Formula 1 team off the front page of national sporting title La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I saw the front page today and it was pretty impressive,” he added.
“It is nice. Hopefully a lot of kids will take up golf. I hope they were watching yesterday and they understood what is so exciting and thrilling about this game."
Molinari was inspired by compatriot Constantino Rocca, who finished second at The Open in 1995 at St Andrews, and made his Open debut 12 years later at Carnoustie.
It has been a long and, at times, frustrating 11-year journey since but recently he has exploded – winning the BMW PGA Championship in May, the Quickens Loans National earlier this month and now the biggest of them all.
“I played my first Open at Carnoustie and realised how much more work there was to be done if I ever wanted to contend,” he said.
“Slowly, it has happened. Year by year and week by week I have got better and then the last two or three years have been really important for my game.
“It is spectacular to look back at the results. It is hard to believe, even for me.”
Now thoughts turn to next year and The 148th Open at Royal Portrush, where Molinari will defend his title as The Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years.
“I played the Irish Open there in 2012 and I was paired with Darren Clarke, who was the Champion Golfer at that time," Molinari said.
“It was an incredible experience to be paired with him. The amount of people watching was unbelievable but you could also sense the respect and pride at what they had.
“It is something I will always remember and I am sure it will be an amazing Open. I can’t wait to be there.”
After the drama that unfolded on the Angus coast, nor can anyone else.
This time next year, The Open will return to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years. Be part of the biggest party in golf in 2019. Get immediate access to Priority tickets for The 148th Open at
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