Francesco Molinari says Masters collapse rocked his confidence

November 14, 2019
Francesco Molinari said the Masters marked a turning point in his on-course confidence.

For one stretch in 2018, Francesco Molinari was the hottest player on the planet. In six starts across the European and PGA Tours, his results went 1-2-T25-1-T2-1, culminating in a victory at the Open Championship. He jumped from No. 33 to No. 6 in the world and kept on trucking with a dominant performance in a 5-0-0 Ryder Cup.

It’s hard to maintain that kind of heat, but Molinari turned the corner into the new year with momentum on his side, winning the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational and making it to the semifinals of the WGC-Match Play in his final start before the Masters.

You already know this, but for three-plus rounds at Augusta National, Molinari looked unflappable and very much like a man who was about to win his second major championship. Then two things happened: Molinari hit his tee shot on No. 12 into the water, and he hit his approach shot on No. 15 into the water. His two-shot lead vanished. And his confidence went with it.

“People told me it would be hard to beat last year, nearly impossible in fact, but until that day at the Masters I picked it up where I left off,” Molinari told the Daily Mail. “And then it stopped. Confidence plays a big part in any sport, but particularly in golf.”

Molinari has become a footnote in what became Tiger Woods’ 15th major championship; the fact that he, Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau each splashed their approaches into Rae’s Creek became just the latest chapter in the Legend of Tiger.

“The mistake Francesco made there let a lot of guys back into the tournament, myself included,” Woods said at the time.

A peek at Molinari’s results page agrees with his assessment that the Masters marked a turning point. Since that T5, Italy’s greatest golfer has notched zero top-10s in 13 starts. That’s a stark contrast to the stone-cold killer who took down the best players in the world at Carnoustie and then stared down the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

“I was feeling good coming to Augusta, everything was going my way,” Molinari told The Mail. “After that, it became many little things that I didn’t do quite as well. My ball striking wasn’t as good and I didn’t putt as well. For over a year, it felt like I was pushing a boulder going upwards but then it started going the other way and it has been hard to stop it.”

Since Augusta, Molinari missed the Tour Championship and has dropped to No. 12 in the world. As 2020 looms, the 36-year-old is shaking things up, bringing Mark Fulcher (Justin Rose’s longtime caddie) onto his bag beginning in the new year. Time will tell if the move will help reverse the course of that boulder.

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