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This is just the beginning of Italian having Major say, insists Bjorn

 

By Phil Casey

Francesco Molinari has the ability to win multiple Major titles according to Europe's Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, perhaps starting with next month's USPGA Championship.

Molinari became the first Italian winner of a Major with a nerveless display in The Open Championship at Carnoustie, the 35-year-old carding bogey-free rounds of 65 and 69 at the weekend to hold off challenges from the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth on a thrilling Sunday.

After taking 10 years to win four times on the European Tour, Molinari has now claimed three victories and two second places in his last six events, securing a third Ryder Cup appearance in September and climbing to a career-high of sixth in the world.

"He's achieved in two months probably what most European golfers want to achieve in a career," Bjorn said.

"He won the BMW PGA, he won in America and then the Claret Jug. It's pretty special. I was impressed with the way he went about his business."

Asked if he could win more Majors, Bjorn added: "He certainly has that type of game where he can go out and challenge the best in the world.

"He's a different character, he just goes about his business, does it quietly, easily, but the way he played at the weekend with no bogeys, I think that's probably the thing that would impress most players within the game. That doesn't happen very often, especially around that course.

"This was a special moment for Francesco, but it was a special moment for European golf because this was for one of the hard workers and good guys.

"I'm looking forward to Paris; it will do his confidence a lot of good, he will come into the team as one of those guys that everyone is looking to.

"He's got another Major coming up and with the form he's in, this could turn into one of those very, very special years."

Molinari joked at the presentation ceremony about the size of his coaching team, but has fully reaped the rewards of working with putting coach Phil Kenyon and performance coach Dave Alred, who is most famous for his work with England rugby and World Cup-winning kicker Jonny Wilkinson.

"I've never won too much in my career until the last month or so and then everything seemed to be happening at the same time," Molinari said. "It's going to take time to really sink in.

"I know I won, but for me to realise exactly what I've done and what this means for me and Italian golf - and also for the remaining part of my career - it will take some time, and hopefully I can use it as motivation to work even harder and try to achieve even greater things.

"It's been a long, long journey. I've had a lot of tough moments and a lot of good moments but this beats everything by far."

Molinari admits it is "weird" to be the new hero of Italian golf after receiving a message of congratulations from his own idol Costantino Rocca.

Rocca was the most successful Italian player of his generation, but the closest he came to the Claret Jug was losing a play-off to John Daly at St Andrews having famously holed a 60ft birdie putt on the 18th.

"It feels weird," added Molinari, who missed the cut on his Open debut at Carnoustie in 2007.

"Costantino still is and will always be my hero and my idol. His text last night was probably one of the most special ones.

"He came so close to winning this that it's for him as well. He told me congratulations and how pleased he was for me.

"He knows how hard I've been working to get here so I think he felt the same pride that I felt yesterday."

Rocca said: "I was very emotional last night, maybe more emotional than him. He played so good all week.

"He has improved a lot over the last two years and I have always said, 'If I'm still the best player in Italy after 20 years, I haven't done a very good job'.

"Now I can say, 'I have done a very good job'."

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