Penny for the thoughts of Francesco Molinari when he steps foot onto Wentworth’s West Course on the 19 September.
He’ll be defending the BMW PGA Championship he won in May 2018 – a victory that only served to foreshadow one of the fastest rises in the history of golf, a tournament in which he palmed off a free-swinging Rory McIlroy with two bogey-free rounds over the weekend, and a success (you could argue) changed his life.
McIlroy, laughing off the defeat to Molinari, said: “Frankie is just like a robot, he never seems to miss a shot, ever –” and so it would prove for the rest of the season.
He claimed the Quicken Loans National two months later with a dominant final round 62 on Sunday to win by eight strokes – the first PGA Tour win for an Italian since 1947. He’d make history again just three weeks later by becoming the first player from Italy to win a major when he overcame an ‘on the prowl’ Tiger Woods to win The Open at Carnoustie.
Molinari’s playing style starts with arrow-straight drives off the tee, builds with peerless iron play, and finishes with a matter-of-fact short game that gets the job done.
He is here to stay at the pinnacle of golf
In an age of mammoth hitters, do-it-for-the-camera shotmakers and Hollywood flop shots, he is what might be harshly termed a plodder, but in reality is nothing short of superhuman in his consistency – and that is how the fabled ‘Moliwood’ duo of Tommy Fleetwood and Molinari went undefeated in September’s Ryder Cup at Le Golf National.
Fancy another record, Frankie? No European had ever won five out of five Ryder Cup matches, but Molinari completed a clean sweep at Le Golf National to cap off one of the finest individual seasons in a decade.
With a second victory on the PGA Tour coming in the Arnold Palmer Invitational this March, a fair defence of his Open title (T-11) and perhaps just the one faltering hole standing between him and Masters victory (Woods would get his revenge this time), Molinari has proved beyond reasonable doubt he is here to stay at the pinnacle of golf. Another victory at the BMW PGA Championship certainly wouldn’t hurt…
BMW PGA Championship, 19-22 September. For tickets, see europeantour.com