Francesco Molinari (*right*) and his brother, Edoardo, pose for a 2012 feature for Golf Digest.
By Stephen Hennessey
Through a packed leaderboard with some of the world’s best players, 35-year-old Francesco Molinari emerged to claim his first major title. It was an exciting Sunday, with names like Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy in the mix, but it was the impressive, consistent play of Molinari that claimed the Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Though Molinari’s win might not be huge to American golf fans, it could be that you don’t know much about the Italian golf star. Here are a few other things you should know about this year’s Champion Golfer of the Year:
Francesco’s older brother, Edoardo, won the 2005 U.S. Amateur win at Merion, where Eduardo became the first European to win the prestigious title since 1911.
To get into a playoff for a spot in the U.S. Amateur’s 64-man match play, Edoardo needed a birdie on his last hole, a par 3; from a bunker, he holed out. Then in the 36-hole championship match, he was 3 down after a rainy morning round. “My shirt was wet, so I asked in the pro shop if they had a magic shirt for a comeback,” Edoardo told Golf Digest’s Dave Kindred. Dry and armed with a shirt with a Merion logo on the front, Edoardo birdied seven of 15 holes—using 18 putts—to win, 4 and 3.
Francesco carried Edoardo’s bag for his 2006 Masters appearance, fulfilling a deal they had agreed to as kids: “Whoever plays in a major first,” Francesco told Golf Digest in 2010, “the other would caddie.”
Though he had already turned pro and had status on the European Tour, Francesco was good on his word. Who was Edoardo paired with during the first two rounds? None other than Tiger Woods, who Francesco played alongside with on Sunday at Carnoustie.
Though his older brother, Edoardo, was the more touted prospect—highlighted by his U.S. Am victory—Francesco was more focused on golf growing up and had quite a pedigree as well.
He won the Italian Amateur two times and took home his first European Tour title, his native Italian Open when he was just 23 years old. Francesco took home the Italian Open again in 2016, becoming the event’s only two-time winner from Italy since it became a European Tour-sanctioned event.
The Molinari brothers grew up playing at Circolo Golf Torino, learning the game from their grandparents and father, Paolo, who is a dentist.
Edoardo’s nickname, Dodo, comes from Francesco not being able to pronounce his oldest brother’s full name when they were little.
Only 23 months separate the two brothers. When they both represented the European side in 2010 at Celtic Manor, the Molinaris became the first pair of brothers to play on the same Ryder Cup team in 47 years.
From Turin, Italy, the site of the 2006 Winter Olympics, Francesco carried the Olympic torch as it made its way to the host site. Molinari is also a big-time skier.
Despite hailing from Turin, Francesco follows Inter Milan. His brother supports Juventus. Francesco’s London team is West Ham.
— Francesco Molinari (@F_Molinari) June 26, 2013
Francesco’s win at Carnoustie is the first major title for any Italian golfer, male or female.
Constantino Rocca’s near victory at the 1995 Open at St. Andrews, losing in a playoff to John Daly, had been the country’s best chance. (Molinari also finished T-2 at the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.)
Francesco has played in two Ryder Cups, a part of two European side victories, including the 2012 Miracle at Medinah, where he defeated Tiger Woods in their singles match.
Molinari is now a lock for the 2018 matches at Le Golf National in France, and he figures to be a stalwart for the European side.
This has been a year to remember for Francesco. Molinari has nabbed the two biggest events played in Europe, taking home the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May to go with his Open Championship title.
Francesco also won the Quicken Loans National less than a month ago, by eight shots—being handed the trophy by Tiger Woods, the event host.
It was not only Molinari’s first PGA Tour victory but the first by an Italian golfer. (Molinari won the 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions, where he edged Lee Westwood by one when it was considered a European Tour event.)
Just eight months ago, fellow tour pro Wes Bryan said that Molinari discussed with him his plans to retire in about two-and-a-half years, in which he’d be content sitting at a coffee shop, watching sports on TV, maybe reading books and “becoming a troll on Twitter.”
— Wesley Bryan (@wesleybryangolf) July 22, 2018
Molinari is now ranked sixth in the world, trailing only Justin Rose and Jon Rahm among Europeans. (Rory McIlroy is now seventh.) Molinari also leads the European side in the Ryder Cup points rankings.
Working with putting guru Phil Kenyon has helped transform his putting, once a weakness for Molinari.
Molinari ranked fourth in putting for the week at Carnoustie. Kenyon also coaches with Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and has worked with Rory McIlroy in the past. Molinari also credits recent work with British performance coach Dave Alfred, who has also worked with Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington, for his successful 2018: “He’s probably a personality and a figure that I was missing. He’s really helped me a lot.”
— Francesco Molinari (@F_Molinari) July 13, 2017
Molinari has had a long partnership with swing coach Denis Pugh, a prominent European instructor who works with Ross Fisher and spent a number of years with Colin Montgomerie.
Pugh on Molinari: “In terms of intensity, he is the hardest worker I have ever seen. He doesn’t necessarily work long hours. But when he is working it is always 100 per cent effort and concentration.”
Molinari has two kids, Tommaso and Emma, with his wife, Valentina, whom he married in 2007.