Champion Golfer's Blog for December
December is a time for reflection and, for Francesco Molinari, there was a lot to look back on.
A first major title – the first by any Italian – came at The 147th Open at Carnoustie in July, the crowning jewel of the best year of his life.
There were also wins at the BMW Championship and Quicken Loans National, while the cherry on top of the cake came in Paris two months later when the 36-year-old made history by becoming the first European ever to win five points at a single Ryder Cup.
A first-ever Race to Dubai title was therefore almost guaranteed by the time he reached the Arab desert and he duly went on to be crowned champion in November.
Golf very nearly grinds to a halt in December but Molinari certainly did not, with glitzy awards ceremonies to enjoy as he was recognised across the continent for an astonishing year before settling down to enjoy the festivities.
Here is what he got up to December.
Home sweet home
As a jet-setting golfer, Molinari spends most of his time on the road competing at tournaments, while London has become his adopted home.
Therefore, trips back to his native Italy can be few and far between but, with a relatively clear schedule, December offered a fine opportunity.
As his country’s most successful golfer, Molinari is a man in demand and everyone wants a glimpse of their major champion and his prized Claret Jug.
But first, he was whisked off to Rome and the prestigious Collare d’Oro al Merito Sportivo awards – the biggest end-of-year awards ceremony in Italy.
There, he was awarded with an Il Collare d’Oro, the first golfer ever to win one.
“It is basically the highest honour that you can receive in Italy as a sportsman. It was the first time it was going to be given to a golfer, so an incredible recognition of my year,” he said.
“I was obviously very proud as an Italian to receive a prize like that. It was very nice to see some very successful athletes.”
The awards did not stop there.
On December 16, he headed across to Birmingham for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, where he went up against the likes of Tiger Woods, Ester Ledecka and Novak Djokovic for the World Sport Star award.
And, fitting in with everything this season, he duly won.
“It’s unreal, to be honest,” Molinari said.
“I’m super proud to be here. There are so many inspirational sporting stories. It gives us more motivation for next season.”
Back on the course
A feature in all of Molinari’s speeches is where he says how motivated he is to maintain his success into 2019.
Safe to say I will never forget 2018! Thank you for everyone's support, what a year! pic.twitter.com/0V4H5amfZh— Francesco Molinari (@F_Molinari) January 1, 2019
And, after an extended winter break, he got back to work quickly.
Christmas came and went but just as the New Year celebrations were in full swing, the Italian was in Hawaii for the Tournament of Champions – his first appearance of the new season.
It was, by comparison to a roller-coaster 2018, a gentle start to the new year as he finished up in a tie for 27th.
However, it did give fans a first look at the new Callaway clubs he was trialling. As an equipment-free player, the Italian has the opportunity to play with what he chooses and, in search of the marginal gains he will need if he is to defend his title at Royal Portrush in July, he is mixing things up in his bag.
“I’m just testing at the moment,” he said. I hit the ball well even in the wind, but I was a bit rusty scoring-wise.”
The saying goes that if you stand still, then you are moving backwards. There is clearly no chance of that for Molinari this year.
Now 2019 is here, the PGA and European Tours are back in full swing ahead of another bumper year of action and Molinari is set to be in the thick of it.
With the Players Championship now just two months away and the year’s first major, The Masters, at Augusta, to follow five weeks later, the best players in the world are sharpening their clubs again.
And then it is full steam for Royal Portrush in July, where Molinari will attempt to defend the Claret Jug.