Molinari's incredible journey can deliver him to a major destination
The former amateur from Turin enjoyed a remarkable 2010 and is aiming for more success at the Open
Thursday 14 July 2011
You could not make up Edoardo Molinari's story; it is too far-fetched, and nobody would believe a word of it. But here are the edited highlights: in 2005 he won the US Amateur championship – something that Italian golfers simply don't do. It meant he received invitations to play in the Masters, US Open and Open Championship in 2006. He later turned professional and headed for the Challenge Tour (perhaps somebody would be good enough to explain why a former US Amateur champion does not receive an automatic exemption for the European Tour) where, in 2007, he won twice and gained his full card.
It didn't go to plan in 2008, however, and Molinari failed to keep his card. He returned to the Challenge Tour in 2009 and topped the order of merit, which gave him another shot at the big time.
Before that could happen, however, he teamed up with his brother Francesco in the World Cup and, lo and behold, they only went and won the thing. Now that definitely wasn't meant to happen.
There was more to come, although even in his wildest dreams, Molinari could never have imagined how last year would turn out. First of all, he won the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, paired with his brother in the final round. And then, with Colin Montgomerie about to name his Ryder Cup wildcards, he secured the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, having to birdie each of the last three holes to beat Brett Rumford of Australia by a shot. Once again, his brother was playing alongside him during the last round.
Monty had no choice but to give Molinari a place on his team, stating that the Italian's finish at Gleneagles was one of the best he had ever seen. Molinari was pretty satisfied with it too. "I was a man on a mission at Gleneagles and there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders there," he said. Alongside Francesco, he duly played his part in Europe's stunning success at Celtic Manor.
He had also managed to fit in a superb performance at the Bay Hill Invitational, which is Arnold Palmer's tournament, where he finished second to Ernie Els and picked up a cheque for more than $500,000 (£311,000). To top it all, he finished the year ranked 18th in the world – he had started 2009 ranked 848th. It was quite a season, and it encouraged him to spend more time in America this year. Unsurprisingly, his game has suffered a little, but he still managed 11th place in the Masters, and has high hopes of doing well at the Open.
"I haven't played great so far this year, having a good finish at the Masters and another top 10," he said. "It's just a matter of being patient and starting to hole a few putts."
There would be no better place for it all to come right for the man from Turin than at Royal St George's, starting today. Determined to play well, he spent some time at the end of last month getting to know the course, trying to work out the no-go areas on a links that has been criticised over the years by players who consider some of the bounces and breaks to be unfair.
"It is a tough course and a great challenge, but this is the Open so I would expect nothing less," Molinari said. "You have to hit fairways and you have to take your medicine when you miss them, but it is in fantastic condition, and if I can get my putter working, who knows what might happen? I have prepared well, and I am ready to go."
Italian golf is on a high. Edoardo has been practising this week with Francesco, himself regarded as one of the best ball strikers in the game, and then there is the remarkable Matteo Manassero – two years ago, at the age of 16, he finished as the leading amateur in the Open at Turnberry, and the 18-year-old, who is now in the paid ranks, has already won twice on the European Tour and demonstrated that he has the game to challenge for majors.
All three have had an incredible journey to date, but it has only just begun, and it is not inconceivable that Edoardo could pick up the claret jug on Sunday.
Would it be stretching it too far to imagine that Francesco will be alongside him in the final pairing again?
Edoardo Molinari, who is managed by 4Sports, will be writing exclusively for 'The Independent' during the Open
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