Molinari hails 'hero' Rocca after British Open triumph
Carnoustie (United Kingdom) (AFP)
Francesco Molinari insisted Costantino Rocca would remain his "hero and idol" after succeeding where his compatriot failed narrowly by becoming the first Italian to win the British Open.
Despite the pressure of playing alongside golf great Tiger Woods, who was himself in title contention, Molinari produced a brilliant final round of 69 to win the Open at the Carnoustie course in Scotland on Sunday.
Remarkably, it was the 35-year-old Molinari's second consecutive round without the blemish of a bogey and saw him finish the Open on eight under par.
Back in 1995 at St Andrews, another Scottish course and the venue for this week's Senior British Open, Rocca holed a stunning 60-foot birdie on the 18th hole to force a play-off only for John Daly of the United States to win that year's Open.
"It feels weird," Molinari, now the first Italian to win any of golf's four major championships, told Sky Sports on Monday. "Costantino still is and will always be my hero and my idol.
"His text last (Sunday) 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 proudness that I felt yesterday," added the in-form Molinari, who in May won the European PGA Championship title at England's Wentworth course and recently claimed his first title on the US tour at the Quicken Loans National.
Molinari, a more outwardly reserved figure than Rocca, said he was determined to keep the Open champion's Claret Jug trophy, arguably the most famous piece of silverware in golf, in his sights.
"It wasn't too wild, there was a lot of joy from everyone but a lot of tiredness as well after a long week," he said of Sunday's celebrations.
"But it was great to have a few close friends and my wife having a few drinks and telling a few stories about the week," added Molinari, whose brother, Edoardo, is also a professional golfer.
"It's not a nice feeling when I don't see the Claret Jug. I want to know where it is so I try to hold on to it as long as possible."
Meanwhile Molinari was particularly proud to have won the Open at Carnoustie, widely regarded as the most difficult of all the courses that stage golf's oldest major and the only one played outside the United States.
"Looking at the list of names on the trophy, the people who won here in Carnoustie, it's just an incredible achievement, especially when I think where I started in Italy, not really tonnes of golfers there so to come all the way to this really means a lot."
© 2018 AFP