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  • Alistair Tait

Haste Ye Back, Francesco

Moliwood seems like a dream. Is it really just one Ryder Cup, three years, since Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood provided the back bone for Europe’s victory at Le Golf National on the outskirts of Versailles to defeat a strong American team, a team supposedly so superior that Europe would be hammered into oblivion?

Moliwood seemed, at the time, the perfect formation of a partnership that would last several Ryder Cups, never mind just one. Yet as we head into this year’s match all Padraig Harrington has is the “wood” part of that dream team. The Moli half is just trying to get his game back in shape, never mind make a fourth appearance in the greatest team event in golf.

Baring a miracle – winning this week’s Italian Open and next week’s BMW PGA Championship – Molinari won’t be at Whistling Straits to help Europe defend the cup. The 2018 Champion Golfer of the Year and European number one is miles away from qualifying, and certainly isn’t in Harrington’s reckoning for the one wild card pick at his disposal, given Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia have those picks as things stand.

The Italian is 81st on the European Points rankings, and 48th on the World Points list. He is now 171st on the Official World Golf Ranking. He was world number five, his career best, on the eve of the 2018 Ryder Cup.

The 38 year old is back in Europe following the end of the PGA Tour season. A look at his 2021 record shows as many missed cuts as made this year (7-7), including four in a row before placing 32nd in last week’s Omega European Masters. His best finishes are eighth place in the PGA Tour's American Express and Genesis Invitational. He was T13 in the U.S. Open, 52nd in the Masters and missed the cut at the Open Championship. He ranks 141st in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup rankings, and has not featured in the playoffs. His last victory came in the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The numbers in black and white obviously don’t tell the whole story. A back injury which forced him to withdraw from the PGA Championship in May has hampered Molinari’s season.

“Given the injuries I’ve had this year, I think at the moment it’s just about getting a bit more continuity and playing week-in, week-out and figuring out stuff every day I’m out on the course,” Molinari said ahead of this week's Italian Open. “It was great fun being back in Crans last week, it’s nice to be back in Europe for a few weeks and we’ve got Wentworth next week to look forward to. It’s a great run and hopefully we can play some good golf.”

It’s a hope all European golf fans share. If there’s a more affable player in European then I’ve yet to find one. He’s arguably the nicest guy I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with. I’m not alone. You can search as far and wide as you like: you’ll struggle to find anyone with a bad word to say about the man from Turin.

It would be great to see him back winning tournaments, contending in majors, wearing European colours in a Ryder Cup, particularly in the 2025 match in Rome.

As we say in Scotland, Haste Ye Back, Francesco.

#JustSaying: “You need to make hay while the sun shines, because you just never know in this game.” Ian Poulter

Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour

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