Sport Golf

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Molinari's Open win no surprise for admirer Harrington

Francesco Molinari celebrates with the Claret Jug after winning the Open at Carnoustie. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters
Francesco Molinari celebrates with the Claret Jug after winning the Open at Carnoustie. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

Brian Keogh

Francesco Molinari's emergence as a major winner came as no surprise to Pádraig Harrington.

An inveterate player-watcher, the Dubliner has been quietly observing the Italian's structured approach to the game for several years and he sensed something big was in the offing when the newly-crowned Open champion started working with performance coach Dave Alred nearly two years ago.

"He's a very deserved winner," Harrington told Sky Sports News yesterday.

"This has been coming for a while with Frankie. I think about 18 months ago he started working with Dave Alred and I've worked with Dave myself in the past.

"I was keeping a close eye on him and I could see how his form has changed over that period. I know people would have seen his good results in the last couple of weeks but what happened had been coming for the last year."

Paul Lawrie came from 10 strokes behind 54-hole leader Jean van de Velde to win at Carnoustie in 1999 before Harrington erased a six-stroke deficit with Sergio Garcia to win the first of back-to-back Open titles 11 years ago.

For Harrington, the Angus links is the perfect venue for chasing and Molinari's steady, tee-to-green game and improved putting were the perfect fit.

"If you took out everyone else in the field, Frankie does play beautiful golf," Harrington added. "He kept it very simple all day, no bogeys and two birdies.

"Carnoustie tends to throw up lots of highs and lows, that's why the leaders tend to find it very hard to lead for the last eight holes.

"Generally, someone wins from behind. I won from six shots back. It's a golf course which is hard to lead on but Frankie did a superb job in playing his own game and doing his own thing. He was constant."

Alred's structured approach to practice helped England place kicker Jonny Wilkinson win the rugby World Cup before he went on to work with former world number one Luke Donald when he became the first player to top the official money lists on both sides of the Atlantic in 2011.

Meanwhile, on the PGA Tour, American Troy Merritt, 32, won his second tour title at the weather-delayed Barbasol Championship in Kentucky where Seamus Power saved the best for last and made six birdies and a bogey in a five-under 67 to share 34th on 13 under par.

Play was suspended at Keene Trace Golf Club on Sunday due to thunderstorms with Merritt tied for the lead with compatriots Robert Streb, Hunter Mahan and Tom Lovelady on 18 under par without hitting a shot.

When the final round resumed yesterday, Merritt closed with a 67, spinning his 133-yard approach into the hole for an eagle two at the eighth en route to a one-shot win from Billy Horschel, Richy Werenski and Lovelady, on 23 under.

Power picked up $17,675 and fell one spot to 118th in the FedEx Cup standings, with the top 125 after next month's Wyndham Championship in North Carolina keeping their PGA Tour cards.

Irish Independent

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