TOP 30 PLAYERS TO WATCH
No. 15: Francesco Molinari
December 16, 2018
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- December 16, 2018
Francesco Molinari wins by eight at Quicken Loans
In a game increasingly dominated by youth, 36-year-old Francesco Molinari had a career-changing year in 2018.
He did it by improving his play with both the longest and shortest clubs in the bag. He took a page out of the youngsters’ playbook by making distance a priority and addressed his longtime struggles with the putter.
After going winless in his first 120 PGA TOUR starts, he won twice in a three-tournament stretch this summer.
He picked up his first PGA TOUR win at the Quicken Loans National, shooting a final-round 62 to win by eight. Then he stared down Tiger Woods to win The Open Championship at Carnoustie. Molinari sandwiched a runner-up at the John Deere Classic between those victories.
He was 48 under in those 12 rounds, including six rounds of 65 or lower.
He also qualified for his first TOUR Championship with a career-best FedExCup finish (17th). And, after going winless in his first two Ryder Cups, he led Europe to victory at Le Golf National, becoming the first player to win a major and go 5-0 in the Ryder Cup in the same season.
“This year, it’s been incredible,” he said. That may be an understatement. -- By Sean Martin
BY THE NUMBERS
Current 2018-19 position: 173rd
Playoff appearances: 4
TOUR Championship appearances: 2
Best FedExCup result: 17th in the 2017-18 season
SHOTLINK FUN FACT
Francesco Molinari is one of five first-time winners since the 2013-14 season to win multiple times in the same year as his breakthrough PGA TOUR win.
PGATOUR.COM’s Insiders offer their expert views on what to expect from Francesco Molinari in 2019.
TOUR INSIDER: Molinari’s work with putting instructor Phil Kenyon undoubtedly paid dividends in 2018. But so did a 20-yard distance gain over the past three seasons, including a 10-yard gain since 2017. And he was able to do it with only a small loss in accuracy. Compared to 2015, Molinari is gaining nearly two additional strokes per event with his tee shots. He gained distance with both changes to his swing and more trips to the gym. “I was more of a couch guy a couple years ago,” he joked. - By Sean Martin
FANTASY INSIDER: It'd be unfair to predict the kind of success that he enjoyed worldwide in the last six months, but it's still a reminder of what's possible when we position expectations properly. For dual-tour threats like the 36-year-old Italian, the customary advice is to invest lightly and surround with busier talent based in the U.S. It provides both insurance for the worst of times and an injection for the best of times. No doubt, his encore will include a few blue notes, but he already was a standard on every set list because of his world-class ball-striking. It's a skill that rarely strikes the wrong chord. -- By Rob Bolton
EQUIPMENT INSIDER: Molinari was part of the Nike staff left without an equipment deal when the company left the hard goods industry, and he’s since switched into mostly TaylorMade clubs. He’s currently using a TaylorMade M4 driver, an M3 fairway wood, P-790 driving irons (2 and 4), P-750 irons (5-PW), and Milled Grind wedges. He fills out his bag with a custom Bettinardi Dass BB-0 putter, stamped with a skull in the cavity that has green and red eyes to represent his pride of the Italian flag, and green and red stampings on the back bumpers. -- By Andrew Tursky
STYLE INSIDER: While many Nike athletes favor the brand’s sporty looks, Molinari gravitates towards the classic designs in Nike’s collection. Expect the reigning Open champ to stick with a neutral palette of colors with the occasional splash of intense pastels in 2019. -- By Greg Monteforte