Akron, OH— It is tradition for the Open Champion to take a drink out of the event’s trophy, the Claret Jug, but this year’s champion Francesco Molinari had other ideas.
“I’m not a big drinker, so to fill it with water would be a bit of a blasphemy it feels like,” he said. “I’m sure there will be time at the end of the season when everything comes down that something goes in it, but not yet. Last week there was a lot of recovery needed, so it didn’t seem like a great time to get hammered.”
Molinari is now back, ready to compete in this week’s limited-field WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
In a sense the past month has been a gamble for Molinari who decided to try and improve his FedExCup standing, skipping the European TOUR HNA Open De France event which was played at Le Golf National, site of this year’s Ryder Cup.
Instead, Molinari chose the Quicken Loans National based on watching TPC Potomac play on television the year before and how he thought the course suited his game.
Molinari won the event by eight strokes and then played about as mistake-free as Carnoustie would allow to earn his first career major.
“Golf is a tough sport and you need to be good at not looking too much, not reading too much into results,” said Molinari. “I think I did a really good job of not reading too much into results earlier in the season, when results weren’t coming, and I don’t need to make assumptions now that results are coming. It’s going to be important to work hard, like I really did, and to work smart especially. I think the goal going forward is just to keep getting better and see where that takes me.”
Adjusting to Firestone Country Club should not be too difficult a task for Molinari who has already competed in this event seven times, with his best finish being a T15 in 2011.
“I think the biggest adjustment is getting adjusted to the attention, to the distractions, if you want to call them that,” Molinari said. “I’m not the kind of player that just shows up and shoots 62. I need to work hard at it and to be in the right frame of mind. So, that’s the job in hand for the next few days and going into next week.”
Molinari’s win continues a trend of major championship winners who do not have a contract with any company over golf clubs. Instead, Molinari has been able to test clubs since Nike went out of the golf club business.
“I just took it as a chance to test as much as possible and to find things that would help me improve my game,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, because it was a lot of work, especially for someone like me that had been 12 years with Nike, I didn’t know what was out there. It’s taken a little time to go through the testing, but then it’s great to get the chance to pick and choose from different manufacturers, even though if you look at my bag, it’s only two brands, I think. So it’s not that complicated really.”
Wesley Bryan was quick to tweet out a conversation he had with Molinari about his retirement plan, but now Molinari believes in himself and what his team told him about how good of a golfer he truly was.
“They believed in me more than I ever did,” said Molinari. “It’s taken a long time for them to keep telling me and to help me achieve things that were shown to myself that I was that kind of player. So I think for me personally, the key’s always been results, but also, you know, when you go out on the course and you’re playing with some of the best players in the world, you confront yourself with them. I think a few years back, obviously I was competing against them, but I always felt like they had something that I didn’t have, and now it feels like I can play with them and, you know, I don’t feel intimidated in any way, or I feel like I can compete with all of them.”
McIlroy pleased with where Ryder Cup team is headed
It is safe to say that Rory McIlroy enjoys this time of year and his performance at the Open Championship certainly shows an agreement with that.
When McIlroy had time to reflect on his T2 at Carnoustie, he seemed to process his thoughts differently than normal.
“Usually when I come that close to winning a tournament, I usually am not able to see the positives right away,” he said. “Then as time goes on, I start to see, I did this well or did that well. It was almost the opposite there. I saw the
positives right away, and as last week went on, I started to kick myself, going maybe I could have done this or done that. I think for me it was good, because I definitely didn’t have my best stuff that week and I still had a chance to win. So that was a positive, knowing that even if I don’t feel like I’m swinging it my best or I don’t have everything quite under control, I can still find a way to give myself a chance.”
Now McIlroy arrives at Firestone looking to continue his momentum.
“I’m sort of sad it’s going to be the last one here,” said McIlroy. “It’s a great week to work on your game, to look ahead to obviously the PGA Championship next week. I think guys use this week as you get four rounds of golf. There’s stuff that you can take from the range to the course and try things out and not have the luxury of playing four rounds, I guess, not worry about having to make it to the weekend. I’ve always played great here, I think, because of that attitude. I use it as a week to try and work on my game. I’ve enjoyed it. I love the place, I love the golf course. I’ve played well here, and hopefully I can play well one last time. Also, I’ll miss the chicken wraps in the locker room.
Advancing the calendar forward, McIlroy did not go to St. Louis to play Bellerive County Club, site of next week’s PGA Championship citing he had a day to do so but in both of his PGA Championship wins he did not do that.
As far as the Ryder Cup goes, the European team is starting to take shape and at last week’s Senior Open Championship, Colin Montgomerie stated that this year’s team may be the best ever formed.
McIlroy was unwilling to go that far but does believe
“The eight guys that are in it at the minute, it’s a very strong team,” McIlroy said. “Then you’ve got a couple of obvious choices that if they don’t make the team, will be wildcard picks. It’s looking good. I think there are some obvious choices for pairings, There’s some other pairings that might come out of the blue a little bit, but Paris National will be a course that sets up well for most of the Europeans as well. We know the golf course very well, which helps, and I think that’s been a massive thing in Ryder Cups the last few times. Home-course advantage has been a big, big thing. Hazeltine was the first time I was part of a losing side, and it didn’t feel very good. Try to sort of get one back over them whenever we go to France.”
He said it
Q. Rory, being a fellow European, it seems like you’re the one European player that Americans have really accepted and embraced. How does that make you feel?
RORY McILROY: I don’t know. I mean, I think I live here and all. I’m married to one of them, I think that helps. You know, there’s 100 million Americans that class themselves as Irish-Americans, so I think that angle isn’t a bad place to come from, either. Yeah, I’ve embraced it. I love it over here. I love the lifestyle, I love the people, PGA TOUR. I’ve embraced it, and I think if you embrace something, that there’s more of a chance that they’ll give you that back. But it has — it’s been nice. I’ve received a lot of support since coming over here and playing. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s because of the way I play as well, if I’m more aggressive and I go for things. You know, that seems to gravitate to people. I don’t know, there’s a lot of different things, I guess, but I’m just glad that they do like me.
Both Adam Hadwin (hip) and Justin Rose (back spasms) have withdrawn from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Hadwin’s withdrawal allowed for Rafa Cabrera Bello who was scheduled to tee off as a single will play with Paul Casey off 1 tee at 10:40 a.m. Rose’s WD means Henrik Stenson will be scheduled as a single off 1 tee at 1:50, but Firestone Country Club Director of Golf Dave Champagne is likely to fill to group with him.