Francesco Molinari is looking to make history by becoming just the fifth man to win the Masters as reigning Champion Golfer of the Year and heading into the weekend, his chances are looking good.
The Italian memorably lifted the Claret Jug for the first time at The 147th Open at Carnoustie last summer with a cool, calm and collected Sunday display that he’s replicated so far this week at Augusta.
Molinari not only made the cut in the first major of 2019 but sits atop the leaderboard on seven-under, albeit tied with four other major champions – Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and 2010 Champion Golfer Louis Oosthuizen.
Then, just one stroke behind at -6, are another quartet which includes a certain Tiger Woods – the man Molinari was playing alongside on that glorious Sunday at Carnoustie last summer.
It means the Masters is set up for a fascinating moving day on Saturday as the 36-year-old looks to slide into position to join Arnold Palmer (1961/62), Seve Ballesteros (1979/80), Tom Watson (1980/81) and Woods himself (2000/01) as the only reigning Champion Golfers to pull on the green jacket.
We ran through some statistics of how The Open winners have fared at Augusts the following year earlier this week but here are some more to consider as Molinari goes for glory over the weekend.
Molinari’s quest for history
Only four men have managed to win the Masters as reigning Champion Golfer but the number of times a top-five finish has been recorded is much higher with 21 – the first being Ben Hogan in 1954 and the most recent, Jordan Spieth last year.
Molinari looks well on course to become number 22 but will have his eyes on the green jacket rather than becoming the tenth reigning Champion Golfer to finish second at the Masters and the first since Woods was the nearly-man in 2007.
If nothing else, the Turin native has already done better than 20 per cent of his predecessors by making the cut, which was first introduced to the Masters in 1957.
At seven-under through 36 holes, Molinari will need a real weekend spurt if he is to match Woods’ record for the lowest 72-hole total as Champion Golfer – the American ending on 16-under back in 2001.
And the Italian could take some inspiration from 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year Jordan Spieth, who shot the lowest Masters round of anyone with that title as his Sunday 64 a year ago very nearly propelled him to a second green jacket, although he eventually finished third.