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Ryder Cup

Iatalian major champ gets Ryder Cup consolation prize

August 16, 2023
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Patrick Smith

And then there was five. Completing the now traditional number of vice captains at a modern Ryder Cup, Francesco Molinari will act as the fifth and final back-up to Captain Luke Donald when the biennial bunfight between the United States and Europe reconvenes at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club near Rome next month.

Molinari, who hails from Turin in the north of Italy, joins his older brother Edoardo, Thomas Bjorn, Jose Maria Olazabal and Nicolas Colsaerts in what will be the first-ever all-continental line-up of captain’s assistants.

“I chose Francesco because he has a lot of experience in Ryder Cups and he is a major winner,” said Donald. “He has a tremendous individual career, but he is also Italian. I wanted him there no matter what, whether it was playing or as a vice-captain. With his brother there too, I think it is going to be pretty special, having both Edoardo and Francesco on my team representing team Europe but also representing Italy.”

It had been thought that the younger Molinari might be capable of making what would have been his fourth appearance as a player, but his lack of consistent form over the last few months put that notion to rest. The former Open champion, once as high as fifth in the world rankings, is currently 179th, a lowly 78th on the European Ryder Cup qualifying list and no higher than 52nd on the world qualifying list.

Molinari brings a wealth of Ryder Cup and team experience to his new role. Alongside his elder brother he made his debut at Celtic Manor in Wales 13 years ago. Earlier this year Molinari led Continental Europe to victory in the Hero Cup matches against Great Britain & Ireland. And he also played for the continent in three editions of the old Seve Trophy, the forerunner of the Hero contest.

Twice the six-time DP World Tour winner has played significant parts in European wins. In 2012 he was the last man on the course when he halved the final singles match with Tiger Woods and ensured the unlikely away victory that came to be known as the Miracle at Medinah.

Four years later at Le Golf National just outside Paris, Molinari became the first European player to win all five of his matches in a Ryder Cup. In so doing he formed a potent four-point winning combination with his close friend, Englishman Tommy Fleetwood (a certainty to make this year’s team), that was soon enough heralded as “Moliwood.”

“I am very proud to be part of Luke’s team,” said Molinari. “I started the year hoping to be there as a player, but it is still a great honor to be there as a vice-captain. I got a phone call from Luke asking if I was interested and obviously it was a clear answer from me. He is assembling a really good team of people. A lot of them are close to me in different ways. We’ve all shared the stage together already in some form and that helps when it comes to decision time and putting Luke and the players in the best conditions possible to perform at their best.”

There was time too, for further mention of his sibling.

“The coolest moment I have had in the Ryder Cup was making my debut alongside Edoardo and experiencing for the first time what it meant to be part of the European team,” he continued. “It is super special to be there with him again in Rome. It is a proud moment any time you get to put on the shirt with the European badge on it. It’s a Ryder Cup which is particularly close to my heart being played in Rome so I will do whatever I can to help Luke and the team and hopefully bring the trophy back to Europe.”

Automatic qualification for Donald’s 12-man European team will conclude on September 3. So far, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland have confirmed their places, with a further three automatic spots available. Donald will then announce his six captain’s picks on September 4.