AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It wasn’t to be for Francesco Molinari. A tie for fifth wasn’t quite what the 36-year old Italian had in mind before the final round of the 83rd Masters, one he began two-shots clear. Nor was a closing round of 74 that left him on 11-under par and two-shots adrift of Tiger Woods. Nor was a swing that felt "handsy" --- an old propensity apparently -- over the front-nine.
“When it gets windy, I tend to start using my hands more and lose control a bit,” he revealed. “Definitely the first few holes, it was like that. From just before the turn I started to feel more in control. In the space of 72 holes you can't expect to flush every shot. I wish I could do that, maybe one day.”
Which leaves the two swings that did most to capsize the Open champion’s challenge for a second major title. Both ended their lives under water, first on the 12th and secondly on the 15th.
On the 12th, Molinari thought the shot a 9-iron distance, but chose to “chip” an 8-iron. Sadly, he under-chipped and came up short.
“It was just a bad execution,” he said. “We picked the right shot and just didn't hit it hard enough, simple as that.”
Three holes later, Molinari was faced with a choice. A poor tee shot had forced him to lay up short of the pond fronting the 15th green. From there, an over-hanging branch presented a potential problem. But if he aimed to the right, he would almost certainly relinquish any reasonable chance of making the birdie he so desperately needed.
Had it been Thursday afternoon and not Sunday, he would surely have played safely, accepted a par-5 and moved quietly on. But given the situation, given his need to catch-up, he went for it. And failed. A double-bogey seven went on the card and it was over.
“I'm proud of everything I did today,” Molinari said. “I didn't play my best golf but I fought hard. It probably came down to one bad swing and one bad decision -- trying to go for the flag on 15 from the left side. We'll never know, if it doesn't clip the branch. But maybe I should have gone for the middle of the green and try to make something happen on the last three holes.”
Perhaps the only consolation for the world number seven was that his metronomic putting stroke maintained its consistency to the end. Even when his run of 49 holes without a bogey came to an end, he holed out unerringly.
“I was hoping to bogey one hole pretty soon so that the streak would be over,” he joked. “Those things are going to be over sooner or later so I was hoping to get it out of the way.”
There were also kind words for his conqueror.
“It was nice to see his story, his comeback and to be a witness in the first person,” he said with a smile. “It’s great to see Tiger doing well. The way he was swinging last year, I think we all knew it was coming sooner or later. He played well, hit the right shots at the right time and deserved to win.”