Molinari not forgetting final round at Augusta National

Francesco Molinari, of Italy, hits out of a bunker on the 11th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Francesco Molinari, of Italy, chips onto the 11th green during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Francesco Molinari, of Italy, chips onto a practice green before a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Francesco Molinari, of Italy, hits on the driving range before a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — For the past month, the golf world has been riding the high of seeing Tiger Woods win the Masters.

What has been forgotten is Woods' unexpected victory pretty much was courtesy of British Open champion Francesco Molinari.

Forgotten already? Molinari had a two-shot lead with seven holes to play and let it slip away with a pair of double bogeys after finding the water at Augusta National on the 12th and 15th holes.

Instead of the golf world heaping praise on Woods, the 36-year-old Molinari could have added a second major to the resume of one of the hottest players in golf .

"No, I wasn't satisfied. No, I wasn't satisfied at all," Molinari said Wednesday, the day before the start of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. "But I mean, immediately after, you obviously look at things a bit differently, as well. I was, I would say, happy because I was happy the way I fought on Sunday and the way I played, but obviously I was hoping for more at the beginning of the day."

What made the fifth-place tie at the Masters so disappointing for the Italian: It was the first time he entered the final round of a major with the lead. Then he failed to hold it.

In winning the British Open last year at Carnoustie, he took the lead late in the final round. He didn't have time to think about playing while in front before he was handed the claret jug. Augusta National was a different story.

"I think the main thing, like I said before, is to get into that situation as often as possible; then you're going to win some and lose some like everyone," Molinari said. "No one is unbeatable. But hopefully I can be there many more times and get a bit of luck at the right time, one or two weeks."

In retrospect, Molinari's performance at the Masters was exceptional. He played all week using antibiotics to treat a sore throat and bug that he got from his two children.

"I think it was a big effort to do what I did, and probably on Sunday, when the adrenaline kind of went down, I felt how much I was spending energy-wise during those days," Molinari said.

After playing for more than 10 years on the European Tour, Molinari saw his career took off last year when he won the BMW PGA Championship, the British Open and the Race to Dubai title. He had five top-10 finishes and earned more than $5 million.

Even more impressive, he went 5-0 in Europe's Ryder Cup win.

Molinari added the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March for his third PGA Tour victory and had the Masters in his grasp before it slipped away. He has three top-10 finishes in eight events in 2019.

"I hope this is not my peak," Molinari said. "I think there's more room for improvement. But I think at the same time, in golf and in sports in general, you need to keep improving even just to stay where you are in the ranks. There's new players coming through all the time and more talent, so even just to maintain your level, you need to keep improving."

Looking at this week, Molinari said the 7,459-yard public course is playing extremely long.

"It's just a course where you need to hit the fairways, but even if you do hit the fairways, then there's a long way to go," the No. 7 ranked player said. "There's not many short holes."

Molinari said he probably would be satisfied with pars on 11 or 12 holes.

"The greens I think, as well, are going to make it very difficult," he said. "The greens are really fast, I think faster than any time I've been here in the past, and that's obviously a big factor if you're coming in with 3-woods and hybrids and 4-irons. Yeah, I mean, I don't see the scoring being too low, but we'll see what kind of conditions we get in the tournament days and how they decide to set up the course exactly."

The way he is playing, expect Molinari to be on the leaderboard again when the weekend comes.

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