Woods Contends, Molinari Captures First Major Championship

Photo Credit: Ian Rutherford/USA Today Sports Images

The tech has made the game too easy. Modern clubs and balls are too advantageous, and negate the challenges offered by golf’s original European homes.

That was the line of dialogue following John Daly’s Open Championship victory as he blasted his way through the Old Course at St. Andrew’s. The year was 1995. Much of this opinion is still alive today, and after Rickie Fowler’s 458 yard drive at the Scottish Open earlier this month, some could claim that these warnings are coming to fruition.

This year’s host, historic Carnoustie, would be put to the test against the modern golfer, and all the advanced weapons in his quiver. How did this course, built before any participant’s grandfather was born, hold up? Just look to the final scoreboard after the winds on the Scottish coast came to its defense to make for the most dramatic of final rounds this Sunday.

Yes there were many players under par, but “Car-nasty” has produced an over par champion in the last twenty years, when Paul Lawrie captured the Claret Jug in ’99. It provided plenty of challenge. For a time on Sunday, the allegedly hung over Englishman Eddie Pepperell sat in the clubhouse after battling the blustery course for a -4 day, -5 for the championship. The leaders kept falling back, with the ancient but brutally difficult back nine truly determining who would be Champion Golfer of the Year.

Golf’s greatest champion in a generation would pull ahead for his first solo lead on Sunday at a major in years. All eyes would be on Tiger Woods, and I don’t need to look at the ratings to give you the annual “most viewed telecast since (insert last time Woods was in contention here)”. A masterful approach from a near disastrous lie in a fairway bunker on the 10th seemed to be a turning point. He was alone at seven under-par when our tournament took a Disney like turn.

Wood’s playing partner for the day, Italian Francesco Molinari, would rise to the challenge and capture the first major championship in the history of his home country. How is an accomplished golfer with wins on tour this season any sort of Cinderella? Try this glass slipper on for size.

At the 2006 Masters, Molinari’s brother, Edoardo was the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, receiving an automatic invite to play at Augusta, and wanted his brother to caddy for him. Their playing partner that round? Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.

Fast-forward 12 years and here they were, this time both in the field, with dreams of a comeback completed, or a breakthrough victory, respectively. A two under-par Sunday would get Molinari the Jug, $2.5 million, and the respect of a Major Champion for the rest of his career, fulfilling the promise of the Molinari brothers from some years ago, when they were some of golf’s top prospects.

Modern tech hasn’t resulted in a 20 under-par Open Champion. In fact, Daly would never capture another Major after his playoff victory at the Old Course, and finished his career with just five wins on the PGA Tour. In that playoff, Daly got the best of Italy’s Constantino Rocca.

Carnoustie was up to the challenge of this field, Molinari was up to the challenge of Carnoustie, and in doing so inspires the next generation of his country’s people to take up the game.

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