Francesco Molinari trails Costantino Rocca by two wins for the honor as most victorious Italian in European Tour history. It shouldn’t be long until Molinari changes that statistic.
Molinari’s victory in the Spanish Open gave him his third European Tour victory in eight years. Given how good Molinari swings the golf club, many can’t figure why this Italian hasn’t surged past Rocca in tournament wins.
Perhaps most surprising, it was the quality of his putting that helped Molinari take Spain’s national title.
Four shots behind Simon Dyson heading into the final round, Molinari finally got the flat stick going when it mattered. Seven birdies in the first 14 holes gave the 30-year-old a lead he wasn’t going to squander. He finished with four pars for a closing 7-under 65 to win by three shots over Alejandro Canizares, Soren Kjeldsen and Pablo Larrazabal.
Molinari picked up a check for €333,330 to move to seventh on the European Tour order of merit. He should also move back inside the world top 30 as a result.
“I knew I was playing well. I just needed some putts to drop,” Molinari said.
It’s always been thus for Molinari. His consistency in hitting greens and fairways in regulation is much respected. He is currently fourth in greens in regulation, with an 80.1 percent average. He isn’t quite as high on driving accuracy, but not bad. He ranks 25th on the European Tour, hitting 68 percent of all fairways.
If he could improve his putts per round then he would have more than three victories. Molinari is 140th in Europe in putts per round so far this season, averaging 30.6 per 18 holes.
“He’s a fantastic ball striker,” former European Tour pro turned short-game guru Mark Roe said. “If his short game matched his swing then he would win three or four times a year.”
Roe has worked with Molinari on his short game, and knows the Italian’s game well.
English coach Denis Pugh is the man responsible for helping make Molinari’s swing such a model of consistency. Pugh also works with Molinari’s brother Edoardo.
Both Molinari brothers made their debuts in the last Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. Francesco was one of the 10 automatic selections to Colin Montgomerie’s team. Edoardo had to rely on a wild card.
Francesco’s victory makes him a favorite for a trip to Chicago in September for his second Ryder Cup. He moves to 10th on the European points list.
“I just have to play the same golf a few more weeks and hopefully I will be there,” Molinari said about playing in this year’s Ryder Cup. “Everybody is desperate to make the team, but unfortunately for us there are only 12 spots. It’s going to be hard – there are a lot of great players in Europe at the moment.”
With his tidy golf swing, Molinari is perfect for foursomes and four-balls. He’d be a steady performer for Euro captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
Don’t bet against him playing at Medinah Country Club this year.