Edoardo Molinari completes comeback with Trophee Hassan II victory
“There’s only two Molinaris,” was the mildly humorous chant from the gallery as the Italian brothers walked side-by-side onto the first tee at Celtic Manor during the 2010 Ryder Cup. But in the more than six years since those heady times, the siblings—World Cup winners together in 2009—have gone in opposite directions, professionally at least. Francesco went on to be part of the European team that retained the Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012 and remains one of the most consistent performers in world golf. But Edoardo’s career sank after an operation on his left thumb and subsequent rehabilitation ruined his 2013 season. Two years later the former U.S. Amateur champion lost his European Tour card.
Since then, not much has gone right. Yes, the elder Molinari performed well enough to earn back his playing privileges at both the 2015 and 2016 tour schools, but the preceding seasons failed to produce even one top-10 finish on the circuit where he recorded two victories in 2010.
This year the signs have been better for the former Scottish Open champion. When he arrived in Morocco for the Trophee Hassan II, “Eddie” had already posted three top-15 finishes in eight starts. All of which paled into insignificance when the 36-year-old Turin native shot nine under par for 72 holes round the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course, then held off Irishman Paul Dunne with a par at the first hole of sudden death to claim his third European tour title. Suddenly, the man with perhaps the highest IQ on tour—he owns an engineering degree from the University of Turin—is $442,314 richer and exempt through the end of the 2018 season.
“It's fantastic,” said Molinari, who made two birdies and two eagles—the second on the final hole—over the back nine to set up the playoff. “I've been through some very hard times with injuries and bad form. To be able to win this week deletes a lot of bad memories and hopefully I can keep going down this road.
“After the first eagle at the 12th hole I thought I had a chance, then I missed a short putt at the 13th. I had another chance on 15—didn't make it—then when I bogeyed 16 I thought it was almost over because on the [par-3] 17th today I’d have been happy with a par. But I managed to hit a great 5-iron to seven or eight feet, and I made the putt. That gave me a boost going down the last.
“It just shows that you should never give up, you should always keep trying, keep working hard. I've probably been the player who has spent the most time on the driving range over the last three years. This is a great reward for so much hard work.”
As for Dunne, the 24-year-old Dubliner who, as an amateur, memorably shared the lead going into the final round of the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews, was disappointed but far from unhappy with his overall play, even if the bogey 6 he made in the playoff was a bit messy after a wayward drive into trees handed his opponent what proved to be an unassailable initiative. Second place represented the former GB&I Walker Cup player’s highest-finish since he turned professional at the end of 2015.