Golf: Open champ Molinari reaches PGA with renewed confidence

Molinari speaking to the media ahead of the PGA Championship.
Molinari speaking to the media ahead of the PGA Championship.PHOTO: AFP

ST LOUIS (AFP) - British Open winner Francesco Molinari has fought off insecurities with hard work and statistical analysis and the results have been three wins in as many months and his first major title.

The 35-year-old Italian approaches this week's 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive after winning the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship in May, the US PGA Quicken Loans National in June and a major breakthrough last month at Carnoustie.

Video reviews of practices and seeing the work pay off with longer drives and better putting have helped bolster Molinari's confidence after 14 professional seasons.

"For me the confidence comes from the work I've done in the last two, three years, recording a lot of the practices I do and seeing in the numbers that I'm getting better and better," Molinari said.

"So no matter what my personality thinks or my way of thinking wants me to think, I can see in the numbers that I'm getting better and better."

Lifting the Claret Jug last month adds to the boost world number six Molinari feels at the PGA. Last year's runner-up effort in the event at Quail Hollow didn't hurt either.

"It has been an amazing two months," Molinari said.

"Carnoustie obviously topped everything off, but already before I was super happy with winning at Wentworth, winning at Quicken Loans.

"Hopefully this week I can start back where I left at Carnoustie."

Molinari, however, isn't counting on keeping the magic going this week with a major crown at stake.

"It's not going to get any easier just because you've won once," he said. "If anything, it will be probably harder because there's less time to prepare and more pressure and more expectations."

Still, Molinari senses his game is capable of beating anyone, a feeling he lacked for much of his career.

"I definitely feel more comfortable playing with anyone now compared to a few years ago," said Molinari, who played alongside a charging Tiger Woods during the final round at Carnoustie.

"I feel I'm a more complete player. I hit it a little bit longer. My chipping has improved a lot. My putting has improved a lot. My iron game has stayed the same or improved even a little bit.

"I think the biggest thing for me was mentally to step it up a level and play in my best golf week-in and week-out, and even the days where maybe the game was a little off to make up for it with the short game and the putting."

A breakthrough in Molinari's putting mechanics set the stage for his winning run.

"In the last few months I found some technical keys that helped me start the ball on line more consistently," he said.

"If you start it on line more times, you have more chances of making putts."

Molinari hopes that Italy hosting the 2022 Ryder Cup will give golf a boost in his homeland.

"Italy will always be football first and then everything else," he said.

"I'm trying to play as good as possible to help promote golf and with the Ryder Cup coming in 2022, I think it's a great opportunity."