Francesco Molinari looks to recover from 2019 Masters final-round miscues
The way Francesco Molinari was playing through three rounds of the 2019 Masters Tournament, the Italian was heading toward a second major championship in his past three starts.
Molinari, the 2018 British Open champion, had made one bogey over the first 54 holes at Augusta National and was the second- and third-round leader by two shots after each round. He’d opened with 70-67-66, making by two shots after each round. He’d opened with 70-67-66, making his lone bogey on No. 11 in the first round.
A final round that he said “wasn’t my day” dashed his hopes of being the first Italian to slip on a green jacket. He put two balls in the water on the back nine, both leading to double bogeys, and shot 74, finishing in a tie for fifth, two shots behind winner Tiger Woods.
Molinari revealed after the tournament he wasn’t 100 percent physically fit. He’d picked up a bug from his children at the beginning of the week and was taking antibiotics for a sore throat. He believes it caught up with him a little bit in the final round.
“I think it was a big effort to do what I did, and probably on Sunday, when the adrenaline kind of went down, I felt how much I was spending energy-wise during those days,” Molinari said.
“It was nothing major, and I was feeling well enough, obviously, to play well in Augusta,” he said. “But I think sometimes in those circumstances, you ask a lot to your body, and then at some point you're going to pay a price for it.”
Photos: Molinari at the Masters
He enters the 2020 Masters without much recent tournament golf under his belt. Between the three-month professional golf shutdown due to COVID-19 and moving his family from London to Los Angeles, Molinari had not played in a tournament for nearly eight months before returning Oct. 8 in Las Vegas.
That gave him five weeks to get ready for the Masters. Is that enough time?
“I don't know. We have to see,” he said. “I will need an extra month or so. My goal mentally really is to be 100 percent for January next year. Anything that comes before then in this period of time, it's kind of a bonus.
In the final round of last year’s Masters, Molinari shot even-par 36 on the front nine and still led by two shots, but it was a deceptive score. He’d made bogey on No. 7, ending his streak of holes without one at 49, and knew his game wasn’t sharp.
“I think I almost played better on the back nine than on the front nine, like how I was hitting the ball,” said Molinari, who had 38 on the back nine including a birdie on the closing hole. “The front nine I wasn't feeling very comfortable hitting the ball off the tee, and I made a lot of good up-and-downs. But obviously I think you struggle to build momentum when you're struggling to save par the whole time.
“I think the back nine I swung the club better. I obviously hit a couple of bad shots, but a lot of good swings, as well, under pressure.”
When Molinari said it wasn’t his day in the final round, he might have been referring to the mistakes on No. 12 and 15.
He said “bad execution” led to his double-bogey on the par-3 12th in what was a tricky, swirling wind.
“I think we picked the right shot and just didn't hit it hard enough,” he said. The, and the ball found Rae’s Creek and he left the hole tied for the lead.
On the par-5 15th, he was still tied for the lead. He laid up in two shots to the left of the fairway but had to navigate some tree limbs to get to the pin, which was cut to the far left, in front of the pond fronting the green. His shot ball hit some branches, cutting down its distance and the ball found the water.
“That ball on 12, if it's one yard further left it probably goes in the bunker and the third shot on 15, it could easily not have clipped the tree and sometimes it is your day, sometimes it isn't,” Molinari said.
Following his disappointing final round, Molinari said he had trouble regaining his “mental energies.” He played the next week, at RBC Heritage, where he missed the cut by four shots after shooting 74-72 and realized he “wasn’t nearly ready to play” just yet.
“In golf, and I think in any sport, when you lose a tournament or a game, you lose some confidence and you just need to build it up again,” he said. “Unfortunately I think it takes longer to build up the confidence than what it takes to lose it in circumstances like that. Augusta definitely took a toll, and you know, I'm not the first guy that it happens to. We've seen Rory (McIlroy) or Jordan (Spieth) in the past going through similar things.”