News & Opinion

Molinari brings hot hand to Europe’s team

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The hottest European golfer in this week’s Ryder Cup also is the mildest member of captain Thomas Bjorn’s 12-man squad.

Francesco Molinari, known as Frankie on the European Tour, will be competing in his third Ryder Cup when play begins Friday at Le Golf National in suburban Paris. What’s different from the past two matches for Molinari is that the Italian is ranked fifth in the world, eclipsed only by No. 2 Justin Rose on the European team.

Molinari’s ascension in golf came from a six-tournament mid-year stretch that included three victories and two runners-up. Molinari, 35, won Europe’s BMW PGA, the PGA Tour’s Quicken Loans National and, as it would be known around here, the pièce de résistance: the British Open at Carnoustie.

d14ad4be-1631-43ab-8276-db7c62032fad_600x400.jpg
Francesco Molinari, who has risen to No. 5 in the world rankings, proves that he can beat the best golfers in the world consistently.

“My life hasn't really changed,” Molinari said with a smile. “I went back [home] and fortunate enough to have a wife and two kids that bring me down to earth pretty quickly.”

Molinari might have remained grounded, but he has kept his game elevated on another level. He added top-10s in the PGA and the BMW Championship in the U.S. in two of his four most recent starts. He will be a desirable potential partner for many of Europe’s Ryder Cuppers.

Although Molinari did not disclose a preferred partner for the foursomes or four-balls sessions in the first two days of the three-day matches, England’s Tommy Fleetwood is a likely pairing.

Fleetwood, 27, a Ryder Cup rookie, won the 2017 French Open at Le Golf National and has competed here on the European Tour in each of the past seven seasons.

Add that to Molinari’s 13 appearances here, highlighted by runner-up finishes in 2010, 2012 and 2016, and the duo would be a potent pairing for a European team eager for a hot start.

“I think anyone on the team would be happy to partner him for the doubles,” Molinari said of Fleetwood. “I don't know what's going to happen, and whoever of the other 11 guys it's going to be that I'm going to play with, they are all talented players. I can't wait to share the emotions of the cause with them.”

Molinari dismisses his 0-4-2 record in the biennial event.

“We all start at zero points at the beginning of the week, so it doesn't matter if you won a major or if you won more than one major,” Molinari said. “Just, how many points can you win this week?”

Molinari carries no swagger despite his strong season, and he is not the sort of personality to dominate a locker room. Yet, he would lead if required, but in his own manner and style that is not going to change dramatically for three days.

It’s possible that Molinari will be Bjorn’s rock this week as Europe seeks to reclaim the Ryder Cup that was lost two years ago at Hazeltine National near Minneapolis.

Molinari conceded that the emotions of winning a British Open are “nowhere near” the euphoria of winning the Ryder Cup.

“It's hard to believe, but it's probably because you play for a team,” he said. “You play for a continent, in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli