Francesco Molinari might just be tempted to retire from competitive golf. It’s hard to imagine he’ll ever have a better year than the season he’s just had.
The 36-year-old Italian capped off the greatest year of his life by being crowned European No. 1. In a year of setting a number of firsts for Italian golf, Molinari become the first Italian to win the Harry Vardon Trophy.
Molinari took a healthy, one-million points plus lead over Tommy Fleetwood into the $8 million DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, the final event of the European season. Fleetwood needed to win and hope Molinari finished worse than fifth to successfully defend the European No. 1 title he picked up last year.
When Fleetwood stepped off the course tied for 17th place with the leaders still battling for the title, it meant Molinari had achieved another first, despite lying in 26th spot. After becoming the first Italian major winner, the first Italian to win on the PGA Tour in 71 years, the first European player – Italian or otherwise – to win five points out of five in a Ryder Cup, the man from Turin punctuated the year of his life by finishing atop the European Tour’s money list, the Race to Dubai.
“It’s incredible,” Molinari said. “Now I’m going to have time to sit down and relax and really think back about the last few months.
“This morning on the first tee the announcement is the ‘winner of the Open Championship, Race to Dubai leader,’ it doesn’t sound real at the moment.
“It’s more than I ever dreamed of achieving. I’ve seen guys that I think are better players than me not winning majors and not winning Order of Merits or Race to Dubais. To achieve those things in one single season is just incredible.
“We’ve been doing very well this year when it comes to the challenges. I never won a Ryder Cup match and I won five out of five. Carnoustie was really not my favorite place, to say the least, before this year, and I go there and win.
“It’s tough in a way because it would have been probably easier in a way to play against anyone else but him (Fleetwood). I know how talented he is, and I really thought at some point he was going to win it and put me in a tough spot.
“He’s obviously a great guy and a super talented player and I’m sure, being younger than me, he’s going to win a few more Race to Dubais.”
Whatever else Molinari achieves, and that could be considerable, will be pure bonus. He’s etched his name indelibly in golf history this season.