Player Profile: Francesco Molinari
Francesco Molinari certainly hasn’t had it easy in pursuit of a maiden major for both himself and his country of birth.
From carrying his brother’s clubs at the Masters to missing the cut at the Players Championship just two months before his glorious triumph at The 147th Open at Carnoustie last week, Molinari has been biding his time.
But as the dust settles on a scintillating performance at the historic links course, we take a look into just what made Molinari tick in 2018.
Brothers in arms
Born in Turin on November 8, 1982, just 23 months separate Molinari from his older brother, Edoardo.
The brothers grew up playing at the Circolo Golf Torino, learning the game from their grandparents and father, Paolo, a dentist.
Molinari had been by his brother’s side for most of his early career, carrying his bag for him at the 2006 Masters, fulfilling a deal they had struck up as kids. “Whoever plays in a major first, the other would caddie,” he told Golf Digest in 2010.
The Molinaris would then join up at the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, becoming the first pair of brothers to play on the same side in 47 years.
That experience alongside his sibling helped Molinari shape the young exciting talent but now it was time to go it alone and become the champion he was born to be.
His brother’s influence is undoubtedly important in Molinari’s journey through golf but the touch paper was lit in 1995.
An impressionable 12-year-old on holiday in the mountains near Turin, he tuned in to watch Italian golfing star Costantino Rocca come so close to winning The Open at St Andrews, agonisingly losing a four-hole play-off to John Daly.
“We hugged and cheered when he holed his long putt on the 18th to force a tie and then cried when he lost the play-off,” Molinari fondly recalls watching his hero.
Rocca himself was just 25 miles away from Carnoustie when Molinari was making history last week as he prepared for The Senior Open.
But the great Italian wasn’t nervous in the slightest for Molinari and recalls an exhibition match where he knew the younger man was going to the top.
He said: “I remember thinking Francesco was so good from tee to green, if only he wasn’t so mechanical with his short game.
“He would putt with his shoulders, and while you can putt like that, how many putts did he leave short? Now his stroke is so much freer, he has everything.
“I only got to see the last four holes because my son and I were flying to Scotland but I wasn’t nervous when I saw how he was hitting the ball.
“One thing I’ve always liked about his game is his focus. I call it the Francesco attitude — and with that he can certainly win more majors.”
It’s that attitude Rocca alludes to that has helped Molinari fire his name into the history books.
But a year before his dazzling golfing display at Carnoustie, Molinari missed the cut entirely at the The Open at Royal Birkdale.
Molinari did plenty of soul searching after that and fired back in style Quail Hollow Club to tie second at the PGA Championship.
Motivated by the love of the game and the desire to succeed, the fire has been burning for a long time inside Molinari and in 2018, momentum was building.
But a missed cut at the Players Championship in Florida, scoring back-to-back rounds of 73, again caused Molinari to question himself. It was time to dig deep.
And how he responded, a BMW PGA Championship crown where he held off Rory McIlroy, then a first PGA Tour title at the Quicken Loans National gave him extra confidence heading into Carnoustie.
Holding off an established name such as McIlroy at Wentworth stood Molinari in great stead as he teed off with 14-time major champion Tiger Woods in the final round of The Open.
Questions had been asked whether Molinari could hold his composure against a rampaging Woods and the almost unending crowds following him but the Italian was now psychologically ready for the battle for the Claret Jug.
The father of two kept his focus and as he ended the day on eight under par to clinch the title, he referenced his sporting idol once again, Rocca.
“The last round already was big news in Italy but obviously, to achieve something like this is on another level,” he said.
“Hopefully, there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Constantino in '95 coming so close.
“Everyone knows he is my hero, and this win is for him as well as for me.
“Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time, watching him vie for the Claret Jug.”
Now Molinari is the name that young Italian golfers will look up to and recall his magnificent round at Carnoustie for years to come – he’s the latest Italian hero.