Francesco Molinari's golden run as he rises to No 6 in the world
Last Updated: 24/07/18 2:25pm
Francesco Molinari is up to sixth in the world rankings following his victory in The 147th Open at Carnoustie on Sunday.
The 35-year-old Italian has risen sharply up the list this summer following a golden run of form since he missed the cut at The Players Championship in mid-May, a result which saw him drop to 33rd in the world rankings.
Molinari returned to Europe for the European Tour's flagship event - the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth - at the end of May and he started his superb run by claiming a two-shot victory.
He displayed his remarkable consistency by only dropping two shots throughout the week - one of them at the first hole of the tournament - and did not post a bogey over his final 44 holes, with flawless rounds of 66 and 68 in the last two rounds to finish on 17 under and two ahead of Rory McIlroy.
Molinari, who had finished in the top 10 at Wentworth in five of the previous six seasons, said: "I've been close so many times. If I could pick one tournament to win in my career it would be this one so to finally get over the line was amazing."
The victory gave Molinari his fifth European Tour win and his first success in a Rolex Series event. It also moved him up to 20th in the world rankings.
Turin-born Molinari headed home for his next tournament the following week - the Italian Open at Gardagolf CC in Brescia - and was strongly fancied to claim back-to-back Rolex Series triumphs.
He was once again 'Mr Consistent' as he carded five-under 66s in each of the first three rounds before going one better with a 65 in the final round to finish on 21 under.
However, it was only good enough to give Molinari second place behind Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen, who closed with a 64 to prevail by one shot.
Molinari birdied five of the last six holes - one of them thanks to a 30-foot putt at the 18th - but a bogey at the 17th proved crucial as Olesen salvaged a par at the final hole for victory.
"I'm super happy to be honest," said Molinari afterwards. "It's been an amazing week. I think I'll never forget the run of birdies today on the back nine."
After a week off, Molinari was back in action in the United States on June 14-17 in the US Open at Shinnecock Hills where, for once, he never really got into contention as he finished in a tie for 25th place.
Like most of the field, Molinari made plenty of bogeys over the four days and looked in danger of missing the cut after a five-over 75 in the first round. He recovered with a 72 in the second round and carded the same score in the third round before closing with a 73 to finish on 12 over and 11 shots behind the winner Brooks Koepka.
Molinari also took the week off following the US Open and teamed up with putting coach Phil Kenyon before he returned to action with a bang as he secured his first PGA Tour victory at the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac.
Rounds of 67, 65 and 65 - containing just two bogeys - put him in a tie for the lead heading into the final round.
Molinari posted two birdies on a flawless front nine in the final round but he then ran away with the tournament on the back nine, starting with a successful 50-foot eagle putt at the 10th.
He then birdied the next four holes for a 62 to finish eight shots ahead of Ryan Armour on 21 under to become the first Italian winner on the PGA Tour since 1947.
"It was a lot easier than I thought. I played great. The start of the back nine was incredible," said Molinari, who actually dropped a place in the world rankings to 16th after the win.
Molinari remained in the United States for his next appearance two weeks later as he warmed up for The Open by finishing in a four-way tie for second place in the John Deere Classic, opening with rounds of 65 and 66 before slipping off the pace with a one-under 70 in the third round.
A flawless 64, featuring seven birdies, saw him finish the tournament in style, but American Michael Kim had already pulled clear of the field as he wrapped up an eight-shot success.
Molinari therefore headed to Carnoustie in red-hot form as he went in search of his first major victory, although he failed to threaten the leaderboard as he opened his campaign with a one-under 70 and one-over 72 to sit on level par at the halfway stage.
But he came to the fore at the weekend with a bogey-free, six-under 65 in the third round putting him three off the lead and in a share of fifth place heading into the final day.
Playing alongside Tiger Woods in the final round, Molinari remained patient in the strong breeze as he parred the opening 13 holes as his rivals gradually began to fade around him.
He took control with his first birdie of the day at the 14th and wrapped up a two-shot victory with another birdie at the 18th as he once again played flawless golf to become the first Italian to win a major.
"It's amazing to stand here with the Claret Jug," he said. "I knew I was coming in with some good golf, but my record around here was terrible so that didn't make me too optimistic about the week. But I just tried to not think about it and focus on hitting good shots day by day."