Former Scottish Open champion Edoardo Molinari was always going to find it tough to eclipse what he achieved in 2010.
The Italian won at Loch Lomond in July and again two months later at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles to earn a spot in Colin Montgomerie’s Ryder Cup team for Celtic Manor. There, he teamed-up with brother Francesco to help fire Europe to glory and, by October, only 13 players were ranked higher than him.
At that point, it was inconceivable to think his next win wouldn’t arrive until April 2017 – but multiple injuries and poor form took their toll and he had to fight not once, but twice, in consecutive years to keep the European Tour card he’s held since 2008.
An outpouring of emotions followed his long-awaited win at the Trophee Hassan II in an Instagram post (below) and he told bunkered.co.uk of his relief now he’s exempt and able to enjoy quality time with his wife Anna and ten-month-old daughter.
“It felt fantastic,” he said. “After such a long time, through injuries and bad times with golf in general, I was so happy. It lifted so much pressure, for sure, and the best thing is that I have a young family so I can take time off when I like.
“With a few weeks off, you can really work at a lot of different things to improve your game as well. When you come in from Q-School, you feel as though you have to play in every event and before my win, I was flying around the world chasing results to keep my card in each and every tournament.”
Molinari finished T11 in the 2011 Masters but dropped out of the world top 50 by the end of the year. He still earned €686,391, though, as he played a full schedule – something he wasn’t able to do in 2012 and 2013 as injuries started to hamper his performance and confidence.
He spent three months on the sidelines in the middle of 2012 after surgery on tendonitis in his left wrist and in August 2013, he announced on Twitter that he was undergoing more surgery on his left thumb – saying he had ‘no other choice’ if he wanted to get back to playing golf the way he wanted to.
The second surgery followed withdrawals at the BMW International Open and Irish Open, while he described pulling out of the Scottish Open on the eve of the tournament that year at Castle Stuart as his lowest moment.
“There have been a few real lows in recent years and that was one of them,” added Molinari. “I had to pull out on the eve of the tournament and that wasn’t a good time at all. When you’re playing poorly, you can always do something but when you can’t even hit the golf club because you’re injured, then it’s even more difficult.
“After the first injury to my wrist and the long recovery time that came with that and knowing I had to go through it all over again with my second injury – at times it was even worse – it was very difficult to think that I’d be able to play pain-free again.”
Molinari did came back injury free at the start of the 2014 season and, after taking a while to find form, he played well – finishing 40th in the Race to Dubai largely thanks to a runner-up finish at the Irish Open and top ten at the Open at Royal Liverpool.
That form deserted him in both 2015 and 2016, though, as he failed to record a single top ten in both seasons.
“I played very poorly and when you play so poorly for so long, it’s difficult to find the answer,” he conceded. “Off the tee, I’ve never been the best player on tour and when you play poorly, your weaknesses show up.
“It’s a vicious cycle. You start hitting bad shots, then your confidence goes, then you start looking for some technical issues that are sometimes not even there. From there, it just keeps getting worse and worse. When you fly around the world with no game at all – it’s difficult.”
But twice, Molinari was able to make it through the gruelling six-round Q-School challenge. The first, by the skin of his teeth in T24 in 2015 and the second time, with flying colours as he started to witness a return to form.
“The first time, in 2015, it was very tough,” he added. “I was playing very poorly and over six rounds, if you’re not playing well it’s so hard to post good scores. “But I was able to have a very good finish and was lucky to make some putts at the right time. Last year, it was much easier because going into it I was playing well and as the week progressed things just got better and better.
“In so many events over the past few years it’s been a hard fight just to make the cut but I believed in myself – I kept working, kept trying. Eventually, it paid back with a win and although I haven’t played very well since, I believe I’m starting to find some form and hopefully I can finish the year on a high.”