Reflecting on Francesco Molinari's summer to remember
In a year when the UK experienced one of the hottest summers on record, one man was able to keep his cool to be crowned Champion Golfer of the Year.
2018 was Francesco Molinari’s year as the Italian claimed the Claret Jug with a scintillating performance to win The 147th Open by two shots at Carnoustie.
His bogey-free final round of 69 saw him hold off a resurgent Tiger Woods, who looked on course to win a fourth Open title at one point, as well as a host of other big names.
But it was by no means a surprise to see Molinari top the leaderboard, with his debut major victory following wins at the BMW PGA Championship and the Quicken Loans National.
We’ve taken a look back at what was certainly a summer to remember for Molinari as the Open Champion earned himself the label of the ‘hottest golfer on the planet’.
CLICKING INTO GEAR
It seems crazy to think it now, but Molinari was not enjoying the best of seasons before he rocked up at the BMW PGA Championship in May, with only a couple of top 20s to his name.
He was ranked 33rd in the world after missing the cut the week before at The Players, an event Molinari had historically played well in, but it all clicked into place at Wentworth.
The course was one he had enjoyed in the past, only finishing outside the top ten once in his six most recent visits, and he went one better than his runner-up spot the year before.
Molinari finished two shots ahead of fellow overnight leader Rory McIlroy after shooting a flawless final round of 68, which ensured he finished his four rounds having only made two bogeys.
His fine form continued a week later at his home tournament, the Italian Open, where he narrowly missed out on adding to his two previous victories in 2006 and 2016.
A runner-up finish behind Thorbjorn Olesen set him up nicely for the US Open, but he would have to wait a little longer for his taste of major glory after coming in a tie for 25th.
PGA TOUR BREAKTHROUGH
Molinari had a choice to make after the second major of the year at Shinnecock Hills - stay in America for the Quicken Loans National or head to Paris for the French Open.
He eventually decided to turn down the chance to earn more Ryder Cup points on the course where it would take place in favour of improving his FedEx Cup position.
And it paid off big time as the 36-year-old overcame the oppressive heat to etch his name on another trophy after shooting the lowest 72-hole score of his career.
His stunning final-round 62 ensured he won his first PGA Tour title by eight shots, despite having started Sunday’s play level with Mexico’s Abraham Ancer on 13-under.
Molinari carded six birdies and an eagle to leave the rest of the field in his rear-view mirror, with Ryan Armour his nearest rival as he became the first Italian to win on US soil since 1954.
He almost made it back-to-back victories a week later at the John Deere Classic, picking up another second-place finish as Michael Kim triumphed a week before The Open got underway.
Considering his run of form leading up to The Open, Molinari should have been the hot favourite as the world’s best golfers touched down on the Angus coast to battle it out for the Claret Jug.
But with his previous record at the most prestigious major a decidedly mixed bag, he was able to go under the radar somewhat despite being the most in-form player in the world.
He certainly didn’t strike fear into his opponents after the opening two rounds, playing steady golf as he shot 70 and 72 to find himself six shots off the lead on level par going into the weekend.
That all changed on 'Moving Day' as Molinari climbed up the leaderboard with a bogey-free 65, including six birdies, to close the gap to the leaders to three strokes ahead of the final round.
Paired with Tiger Woods on Sunday, Molinari showed no nerves - despite the 14-time major winner surging into sole possession of the lead at one point - as he bided his time before taking to the front.
He began with 13 straight pars before making a birdie at the 14th and with the rest of the field unable to catch him, he secured a stunning victory with another birdie at the last.
RYDER CUP GLORY
World No.2 Justin Thomas was in no doubt of Molinari’s status after his triumph at The Open, taking to Twitter to crown him the “hottest player on the planet currently”.
It was a billing Molinari would live up to in some style at the Ryder Cup as he rounded off his near perfect summer by helping Europe wrestle back the trophy at Le Golf National.
Like The Open, his record going into the team event was less than inspiring, with Molinari failing to win any of his previous six matches in the competition in his 2010 and 2012 appearances.
His third outing was different gravy, however, as he teamed up with Tommy Fleetwood to go 4-0 in their matches across the first two days of fourballs and foursomes - earning them the moniker of ‘Moliwood’.
Molinari then made history by becoming the first European player to win five from five as he beat former Champion Golfer Phil Mickelson 4&2 to officially seal the outright victory for the hosts.
“I couldn’t even dream of a summer like this,” Molinari said afterwards. “To think before Wentworth, things were going OK, but not great, and then everything started clicking.”
To think indeed.