Molinari the toast of Italian golf
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2006 Italian Open | Wrap | 08 May 2006
When asking any golfer what event they would most like to win outside of the majors, if money wasn’t a factor, it is fair to assume that the answer would be their national open.
Today, near Milan in Italy, the Italian, Francesco Molinari, did just that when he not only won the Italian Open but did so in the most impressive manner. The victory could not have come at a better time for him or golf in Italy.
Italian golf has suffered in comparison to some of its European neighbours and although there has been several players on the threshold of greater things in the game at the professional level, there has been little in the way of success for since the days of Constantino Rocca.
Interestingly Molinari’s brother Eduardo looks to be something very special, having won the US Amateur Championship in 2005, but his brother Francesco has ensured that there will be fierce family competition in the professional ranks once Eduardo turns professional. It would appear that will come after he (Eduardo) has taken advantage of the major championship exemptions on offer to US Amateur Champions.
Silvia Cavalleri has regularly played the LPGA Tour and was herself a Women’s US Amateur Champion in 1997, but like all countries looking to grow the game they need a role model to increase golf’s popularity. In the Molinari brothers they might just have them.
For the older Molinari however, today was something special not only because he won his first European Tour event in just his second season on the European Tour but he did it in a manner that suggests there will be plenty more to come.
Molinari had a solid debut season in 2005 but this year he had already recorded three top tens, including a very good 6th place at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth, before teeing it up in his homeland.
Starting the final round in a share of the lead with England’s Benn Barham, the 23 year old made the dream start with an eagle at the first and between there and his last hole birdie he hardly put a foot wrong. Barham double bogeyed the second hole and that was effectively the end of his challenge.
It would be the resurgent Swede, Jarmo Sandelin and Dane, Anders Hansen, who would move into the placings behind Molinari, but the Italian was never really threatened as he produced a brilliant shot to the last to ten feet for yet another birdie and the four shot win.
Sandelin appears to have found something in recent weeks and is definitely returning to his best form. A late bogey in his round today perhaps cost him a chance of victory, after he had moved to eight under for the day through fifteen holes. He will, however, no doubt be pleased with what is a major turnaround in his game and subsequent results. This was his third top ten in his last six starts and, for the 1995 European Tour Rookie of the Year, this is a positive sign after losing his way for three of four years.
Hansen continues his very consistent season and although he has not won in four years on the European Tour he must surely be closing in on his second victory to follow his 2002 Volvo PGA Championship.
Of the Australasians, Peter Fowler did best with a very good 8th placed finish, Richard Green was 24th in his first event in more than two months, David Bransdon was 33rd, Marcus Fraser 40th and Stephen Scahill 58th.
Next week the European Tour hits Britain for the first time in 2006 when the British Masters will be played at the De Vere Belfry.