It has been a season of firsts for Francesco Molinari, but the Ryder Cup star is looking forward to two more before finally being able to reflect on a remarkable year.
Molinari became the first Italian player to win a major when he claimed the Open Championship at Carnoustie, which followed victory in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and a maiden PGA Tour title in the Quicken Loans National.
The 36-year-old then became the first European player to compile a perfect 5-0 record in the Ryder Cup victory at Le Golf National, having already teamed up with Tommy Fleetwood to become the first European pair to win all four of their matches together.
And now Molinari is primed to win the Race to Dubai for the first time before becoming the first golfer to be awarded the Collare d’oro al merito sportivo, the highest honour conferred by the Italian National Olympic Committee.
“It’s definitely going to be a special moment,” Molinari said. “I think so far it’s only been given to Olympic gold medallists or world champions. It shows how well my win at the Open was received and hopefully it’s another step towards golf being more popular in Italy.
“Since May it’s all been going very fast and very quickly and so many things happening one after the other, that I haven’t had time really to sit down and think through what’s happened in the last few months.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to do the job this week and then sit down next week and start reflecting on the season and digest everything that’s happened before, starting to prepare for next year.
“I’ve seen my family in London but I haven’t been back to Italy (since winning the Open). There are a few people that I’d like to share the Claret Jug with, probably a lot less people than the requests I get so I’ll have to manage that, but it’s going to be fun.”
Molinari leads Fleetwood by just over a million points in the Race to Dubai ahead of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, where a top-five finish will guarantee him the title even if Fleetwood, the reigning European number one, were to win.
The ‘Moliwood’ pair will play together in Thursday’s first round and Molinari concedes their close friendship will make it impossible to attempt any sort of mind games.
“I know we’re going to sound really cheesy, but if I don’t win I’d rather see him win than anyone else,” Molinari added. “We really are good friends and to think that he comes here still with a chance to win two in a row, it’s incredible, really.
“For me it’s been a great season and however it goes this week, I’m still going to have lots of great memories from all of what I’ve done this year, and probably the best memory is what we’ve done together with him in France.
“I can’t really be mad at him, even if he wins.
“I would never have guessed I would be in this position if you had told me in April or May, but it’s been an incredible summer topped by an unbelievable Ryder Cup. Hopefully I will be able to close it out but it’s not going to be easy and I am not making any assumptions.
“It would mean a lot. I think it doesn’t matter how much you achieve in the game. Obviously you will still be wanting to achieve more, first of all. Second, it would mean a lot because it’s a season, year race, which makes it a lot harder to win.
“You can have the best week of your life and win one tournament, but to win a competition that lasts throughout the season, with the amount of talent there is right now on the European Tour, is something really hard to do but also still hard to figure out for me how I’m here in this position.”
- Press Association