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Data-driven Edoardo Molinari finds enough putting form to move up British Masters leader board

A new putting coach and his usual stats-saturated approach have worked well for Dodo Molinari at the British Masters.

May 14, 2021

Richard Heathcote

SUTTON COLDFIELD, England — The cry during the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor was that “there are two Molinaris.” Which was undeniably true at the time. Less than a year before, in fact, the brothers - Edoardo and Francesco - had won the World Cup for Italy. But in the decade that followed, the gap between the pair grew wide. Today, Francesco is a winner on the PGA Tour, a major champion, and member of multiple European Ryder Cup sides. In contrast, Edoardo has won once since 2010 - the 2017 Trophee Hassan in Morocco - and is, statistically at least, the 638th best golfer in the world.

Indeed, if the elder Molinari is to be believed, even that lowly ranking might be an exaggeration if putting is the sole criterion. Despite ball-striking he claims has been on a par with his Ryder Cup year “since the middle of 2019,” the former U.S. Amateur champion has long been driven to the edge of despair by less than stellar work on the greens. “If a ten-handicap had putted this season instead of me, I would be doing better,” he says.

So the sight of Molinari working with putting coach Andy Paisley - brother of tour pro, Chris - on the eve of the British Masters at The Belfry was no real surprise.

“I noticed that everyone working with Andy was improving on the greens,” says Molinari. “I’d been working away on my own, trying something different every week. So I felt like I needed more structure and definitely some help. He told me a couple of simple things and I’m going with them. It’s not a huge change and not one that is going to alter week to week. But at least this shows I’m on the right track. A day like today is a big boost to the confidence.”

That is hardly surprising. Building on yet another more-than solid day between tee and green, Molinari found a long-departed putting vibe that carried him to an eight-under-par 64 and, on nine under par for the week, the early clubhouse lead. Seven birdies in the first ten holes provoked vague thoughts of what would have been the European Tour’s second-ever 59, but thereafter the three-time tour champion was relatively becalmed. By the end of what was his lowest round on tour since a 63 in the opening round of the 2019 Scottish Open, this clearly harsh critic was calling his round “just a slightly better than average day on the greens.”

He would know, of course. Molinari, who has an engineering degree from the University of Torino, possesses one of the highest IQs in professional golf, an aptitude he applies with some zeal to statistical analysis of his game.

“A couple of years ago at Wentworth I felt like I hit the ball well off the tee, but was poor with my irons,” he says. “The rest of my game was pretty average. Or so I thought. When I looked at my stats at the end of the week, my coach asked me if I had noticed anything with my irons. I told him I felt like I had hit a lot of pulls to the left. Anyway, over the four rounds I missed 25 greens. And I missed 16 on the right and nine on the left. So the pulls I remember represented only about one-third of my total misses. My mind deceived me.

“Not looking at stats is like running a company and not knowing where you are making and losing money,” he continues. “Or what your policy should be going forward. Or who your best clients are. I know some guys don’t keep stats. And I wish there were more of those. They don’t realize how much of an advantage it is to know exactly what is going on in your game. They don’t know why they play well. They don’t know their strengths or their weaknesses. They don’t know what courses suit them and which ones don’t.”

Ironically given his most recent round of golf, Molinari long ago identified “drive for show and putt for dough” as one of golf’s most misleading cliches. Relatively speaking, he maintains that putting is the “easiest” aspect of the game. And, as ever, he has an explanation for his theory.

“If you had to play against a tour pro for £100, would you play from five feet away, from just off the green, from 100-yards, from 200-yards over water, or with a driver on a long hole?” asks Molinari. “You would go for the five-foot putt and work out from the hole. So would almost everyone because the shorter the shot, the more chance the inferior player has. I can easily miss the five-foot putt a 24-handicapper has just made. But there is no way I will lose to him hitting a long iron over water.”

Molinari reacts to missing his birdie putt on the 18th hole on Friday.

Richard Heathcote

Which was exactly how Molinari finished off his 64. The only downside was that the 15-foot putt he had for what would have been his tenth birdie of the day touched the edge of the cup before sliding by. Still, even that wasn’t enough to quell his obvious satisfaction after a good day’s work on just the sort of course where he has previously seen success. A winner at Loch Lomond and Gleneagles, he clearly feels at home away from the seaside in the U.K. Even when the weather is far from Italian.

“I do like inland courses in this country,” he says. “I love the weather too, as long as it doesn’t rain. If it’s cold and windy, I love it. Historically, I’ve never been a great putter when the greens are a bit bumpy and not too fast. So today played into my hands. Plus, because of the weather in this country and the courses, the scoring tends to be a big higher. When I have won the winning score is usually ten to 12 under par. And this week will be similar.”

But different. At least when compared with his most recent results.