Moli­nari still bears scars of his Masters melt­down

Scottish Daily Mail - - Tennis - Derek Lawren­son

THE BEST golfer of last year says he needs to wait un­til the end of the sea­son ‘when I’m in a calmer mood’ to work out why this cam­paign has not gone to plan. But the truth is, Francesco Moli­nari al­ready knows the an­swer.

For the wider sport­ing world, that fate­ful fi­nal day at Au­gusta Na­tional in April has en­tered folk­lore as the one that gave us the Masters miracle. For the per­son­able Ital­ian, it was the Masters melt­down.

Now, Moli­nari has ad­mit­ted the blow his con­fi­dence took fol­low­ing his col­lapse over the back nine, where he found the wa­ter at the 12th and 15th to let in Tiger Woods.

‘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, and then it stopped,’ said Moli­nari. ‘Con­fi­dence plays a big part in any sport but par­tic­u­larly in golf.

‘I was feel­ing good com­ing to Au­gusta, ev­ery­thing was go­ing my way. 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.’

Moli­nari’s re­sults un­der­line his can­did as­sess­ment in stark de­tail. In the ten months lead­ing up to the Masters, he won four times world­wide and be­came the only eu­ro­pean to win five points out of five at the Ry­der Cup. He drove down Mag­no­lia Lane hav­ing claimed the Arnold palmer In­vi­ta­tional with a bril­liant fi­nal round 64, and fol­lowed it by reach­ing the semi-fi­nals of the WGC-Match play.

‘The Ma­chine,’ as he is of­ten known, was purring as he took the lead head­ing into the fi­nal round of the Masters. He was poised to be­come the first golfer since Tiger in 2001 to hold the Claret Jug and the green jacket at the same time.

With the end­ing of that dream, as he says, ev­ery­thing changed. In the 13 events since, Moli­nari has not mus­tered a sin­gle top-ten fin­ish to fall from sixth in the world to 12th.

One change he has al­ready de­cided upon ahead of his review is to em­ploy Justin Rose’s old cad­die Mark ‘Fooch’ Fulcher, who had to take a year off ow­ing to heart prob­lems but will be re­stored to full health by Jan­uary.

To­gether with an english coach (de­nis pugh), putting guru (phil Kenyon) and psy­chol­o­gist (dave Alred), it com­pletes the set for the ar­dent An­glophile, a long-time Lon­don res­i­dent.

‘I spoke to my cad­die pello (Iguaran) after the Ital­ian Open last month and we both agreed we needed a change,’ said Moli­nari.

‘I called Fooch to see if he was healthy. He achieved pretty much ev­ery­thing with Justin and I al­ways ad­mired the way they worked. He’s a strong per­son­al­ity, so hope­fully he will add to my con­fi­dence.’

you fancy the off sea­son is com­ing at just the right time for the driven 36-year-old from Turin. While the rest of the game looks back this de­cem­ber and re­flects on that mag­i­cal af­ter­noon in Ge­or­gia, Moli­nari will be cleans­ing the mind and learn­ing to for­get.

In de­cline: Francesco Moli­nari

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