“I think I’m at a stage where whatever comes now is going to be a bonus,” declared Molinari in a teleconference in the countdown to the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in July. “I still have a lot of desire and I want to win more. I got a taste of it last year and it was great.
“For me, winning is a huge motivation and spurs me on to do even more, and that’s what I’ve done this winter, working as hard as I have ever done. “I feel like I haven’t reached my limit yet, so the dream is to keep improving to see how far I can go and hopefully get as many wins as possible along the way.”
Molinari claimed his maiden major victory in stunning fashion at Carnoustie last year, closing with bogey-free weekend rounds of 65 and 69 to hold off a chasing pack that included Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods, his playing partner on the final day.
“It has been massive for me,” admitted the 36-year-old as he reflected on becoming the first Italian to claim one of the sport’s top prizes. “It was an incredible week for me and it’s had a great impact, with people recognising me more and just around the world. Being announced as the Champion Golfer of the Year is something I used to dream of, and to finally have it come true is a huge achievement for me.”
Of all the people who have shared Molinari’s joy, he’s enjoyed seeing the face of one person in particular - his older brother Edoardo, winner of both the Scottish Open and the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2010, the year both brothers played on a winning Ryder Cup team in Wales.
“The best reaction was probably my brother when he came to visit me in London,” he recalled. “I think it was for the British Masters, so a few months later. Just to see his face, holding the Claret Jug, one on the most iconic trophies in sport, you could just see the pure joy. “I remember as a kid, both of us, my brother and me, dreaming about only getting into majors, so I think for him as well to hold the Claret Jug and to know that one of us had made it was an incredible feeling.”
And, while it has been around a bit, there is still one person Molinari wants to show off the Claret Jug before he returns it to Martin Slumbers, the R&A chief executive, at the start of the week at Royal Portrush in July. “I would love to take it to Sergio Bertaina, my first coach in Turin as I haven’t had the chance unfortunately to be there yet. He was the guy who introduced me to golf and coached me until I was on Tour.
“I think he deserves to hold it and see it. He loves golf as much as anyone, so I would love to again see his face holding the Claret Jug.”
Molinari’s success at Carnoustie capped a brilliant spell that had also seen him come out on top in both the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour and the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour. He won again on the latter recently in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and, having backed that up by finishing third in the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas last weekend, he is heading into next week’s Masters in good fettle.
“Winning at Carnoustie gave me more confidence and more belief in my abilities,” he said. At the same time, golf is a tough business and a tough sport and things can change very quickly.
“I think the margins between the top players at the moment are quite small. All I can do is control is my preparation, my attitude on the course. And I want to try to do that as good as possible.
“I think there’s still room for improvement. I think I’ve got the right people around me to work on that. And then we’ll see what kind of results I will get in majors,
“Regarding Augusta. I’m honestly not going in with any expectations or anything like that. I think the short game and the putting are the two things that have let me down there in the past. “Because of the greens there, that’s one of the biggest challenges. Hopefully, I can putt better and chip better around the greens this year and get a better result.”