2018 will forever be remembered as the year of Francesco Molinari after he saw off a world class field to claim his maiden major title with victory at The 147th Open.
In doing so, the 36-year-old from Turin became Italy’s first Champion Golfer as he overcame the challenge of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose to clinch the Claret Jug.
His triumph at Carnoustie came on the back of victories at the PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Quicken Loans National in July – his first win on the PGA Tour.
Such was his scintillating form in the second half of the season, he continued his dominance at the Ryder Cup before claiming the European Tour’s season-long Race to Dubai title.
But after experiencing a year most golfers can only dream of, the question is: where does Molinari go from here? Here’s what the Champion Golfer got up to in January.
Time to reflect
Unsurprisingly, the New Year began with Molinari reflecting on his incredible 2018 season as he admitted he is still getting his head around becoming Champion Golfer.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” he said in a video for the European Tour. “If I think where I started in Italy, and you know, with not many people believing it would be possible.
“Getting into The Open, obviously I was coming from a few weeks of really good golf. To be honest, though, Carnoustie had never been my favourite course in the world.
“It was a grind, like I think it was for everyone. It was a build-up of confidence and just hitting good shots at the right time. I started feeling, you know maybe this is the day, maybe this is the week.
“The 2018 season will be when I wrote my name in the history books and even if it doesn’t feel real now, in a few years when I look back it will be even more special.”
Tournament of Champions
It has been a quiet month for Molinari on the whole, with the Champion Golfer only teeing it up once during the month – at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
While it was far from the vintage golf he produced last year, the Italian was able to take plenty of positives from his performance over the week in Hawaii at Kapalua Resort.
The field, which was entirely made up of winners from the 2018 season, included the likes of defending champion Dustin Johnson and three-time major winner Brooks Koepka.
Molinari ultimately finished tied for 27th at one-under for the tournament, with Carnoustie runner-up Xander Schauffele coming out on top in the opening event of the season.
Speaking after his first round, Molinari said: “First day in the books, scoring wasn’t great but lots of positives after a long busy break at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.”
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
One of the keys to Molinari’s success last year was his meticulous preparation and his work with coaches Denis Pugh and Dave Alred both on and off the course.
Pugh has been overseeing Molinari’s development for a number of years at The Winsley in Surrey, a private members’ club where he has been head professional since 2000.
Molinari, who also works with putting mentor Phil Kenyon, has also benefitted more recently from the influence of mental performance coach Alred as he helped transform the Italian’s fortunes.
And Molinari has spent most of January working on every aspect of his game with his trusted allies in preparation for the new season, documenting his progress on his social media accounts.
Pugh tweeted earlier in the month to say he would be working with the Champion Golfer for “four hard weeks”, with Molinari revealing he will make his return at the Genesis Open in February.