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April 9, 2019

Francesco Molinari

Augusta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, welcome, Francesco, what a year you've had, BMW PGA Championship, Quicken Loans, of course The Open Championship, a big one, The Race to Dubai, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. What a performance, not to mention, five points, some you shared with Tommy Fleetwood, at the great performance that you had at The Ryder Cup. So what a year. To what do you attribute your success?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, pretty good. I think it's just, obviously getting on a good run and getting confidence from every win. There's been a lot of work going in the last few years, and sometimes it doesn't pay off straightaway. So yeah, it's taken awhile, but obviously now success is coming quite often, and that's a nice feeling. So I'll try to keep working to keep the success coming, and win as many tournaments as I can. You know, I'm not a spring chicken anymore, so I need to make the most of it.
THE MODERATOR: Well, 36 is still pretty young.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, it's all relative I guess (chuckling).

Q. What do you think suits your game about Augusta National, and what, if anything, doesn't?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I think it depends on conditions, but it's a second‑shot golf course. Tee shots are important, but not key, probably. Obviously you can play from the rough. I think off the tee, it's important to miss on the good side. Every hole there's a side where most of the time you have a shot to the green, even if you are out of position, and then, yeah, second shot, so that should suit my strengths and my game.
I think what let me down in the past obviously then it's on the greens and around the greens, it's a very tough test because of the speed of the greens and the undulation. So yeah, I hope to show the progress that I've made on the greens and around the greens in the last few months, and get a good performance in this week.

Q. Is there ever a time when you came to the Masters and were not terribly confident about your chances?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: When I was not confident? No, just because, you know, we're competitors, and even if you're not playing well at the beginning of the week, you always try to be positive.
But I think looking inside now the years I've played, I can see some things now I've improved, especially the putting that I wasn't do so well in the past and would be costly around here. And as well, I think it's a course that most guys need to play a few times to learn a few tricks and learn how to play a few shots, and hopefully I can use the experience from the last few years this week.

Q. I was just curious, playing off what you said about confidence, the year that you've had, The Open Championship, The Ryder Cup performance, winning Bay Hill; is your mind‑set, your confidence, greater than it ever has been coming into the Masters?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, well, clearly, I'm in a much different position to where I was coming in the last few years. I don't want to deny that, or I can't deny that. I feel good about my game.
But like I was saying, the beginning of the week, I think pretty much everyone does. Then when you go out there, all majors, but I think here, Augusta, especially, they are tough tests, and if you are not on your game, you're going to pay the price for it.
Yeah, like I said, with confidence, you know, confidence comes with success, and I've had a lot of success in the last few months, and I think that the important thing is that I don't have to let my guard down. I still have to go through all the work and the process that got me to this point, and hopefully will get me even further forward in my career.

Q. What is the current state of golf in Italy, and when you grow up there without a lot of golfing role models, how hard is it to envision, you know, doing what you've done the last few years, how distant do those dreams seem like when you're growing up there?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, I think fortunately, golf is starting to be, you know, very different now to where it was when I was growing up, and dreaming of just purely being here one time and playing in one major, would have already been a dream coming true.
Fortunately, I had the role model of Constantino Rocca who was doing great and was playing Ryder Cups and doing well in majors, and so obviously that gives you hope that it's doable, even if you come from a small golfing country like Italy was at the time.
So I think now, the situation is a lot better. Obviously I'm helping a little bit with getting golf in the news and hopefully, you know, kids will see more and more about me and about golf in general and pick up the game, and there's going to be more Italians in the future. We were just saying, it was nice to see, I think there was four or five Italian girls playing on Saturday, and one, Caterina, finished tied 12.
So they are showing progress, because I think a few years ago, I don't think that would have happened, you know, with Italian golf.

Q. Was your first year here when you caddied for Edoardo, was that your first year here?

Q. What did you do that week? Do you remember?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I carried the clubs (laughter) and prayed that he was going to hit good shots. No, it was a fun week. I think I got here after missing a cut on The European Tour, it was I think only the start of my second season on Tour.
And yeah, just got the full caddie experience. Trying to help him out on the course, and it was fun. It was great to be here. It wasn't fun trying to pick clubs for him. It's a tough course to caddie around. You know, when you stand on the 12th tee, you just hope to make a right decision, but it's really not easy, especially where we both were at the time, where we were very inexperienced at this level and just trying to make the most of those two days to be honest.

Q. You mentioned about the work you've been doing over the years and it's starting to pay off for you. I'm curious, what were you working on most specifically in terms of your game that is paying off?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I'm working on every single aspect that I think can improve my game and can make me better. I think in the last, definitely four or five years, I've started to be more pragmatic about myself and my game and what I needed to improve, if I wanted to reach a certain level.
I've surrounded myself with the people that I trust and that I think are going to give me the best advice in anything from nutrition to physical to technical, short game, putting. We try to look at every angle to try to get better.

Q. Because there's such an emphasis on power, it seems like today, and I forgot which player had said this; that if they were in the last group playing with you, or with, say, someone like Brooks Koepka, Brooks might get their attention more because of his physical capabilities. Do you find that to be‑‑ or can you see where that thinking would be, and if so, is there any part of you that takes great pride in knowing how well you can play and beat anybody with what you have? Long question, my apologies.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, I can see the point obviously, but I think that's one of the things that motivated me a few years ago to work harder and to look at ways to get better.
I remember when we played The Open at Royal Liverpool on the Saturday, I played in the last round with Rory and Dustin, I think it was the third round, yeah, and I just didn't have a chance. I could play as well as I wanted but I didn't stand a chance. That was I think a big turning point for me. It's all about perspective and how you take things. I took it like, if I want to keep doing this job and do it at a high level, I need to work as hard as I can and see if I can get closer to those guys.
So what that did for me is now when I go out, play with Brooks or Dustin or Rory or whoever you can name, and I'm not really intimidated, because I feel like I can compete with them, even if I'm not hitting the ball 370 yards. I'm hitting it long enough to be competitive and to use my strengths to get good performances in.

Q. The way you have improved your short game to get to this level, what has that process been like? How many up‑and‑downs have there been, and how much of it was adjusting to different types of greens and green speeds, particularly here, in America?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, I think it was a combination of many things. Obviously I worked with many different guys on my short game in the past. You know, it wasn't like I wasn't working on my short game before three or four years ago. I think you learn a little bit from everyone, and if you're smart enough, then you get to a point where you try to gel everything together, and so that's why I say, you know, it's been a long process.
For me, it's always been the case of trying one thing and if it doesn't work, throwing it in the bin. It's been learning little by little from all the different instructors I've had, and then it's trial and error. Obviously, yes, some things work and some don't. You need to be smart and lucky to I think pick the right things, and even if they don't work straightaway, if you think they are going to make you better, just keep at it and keep doing, and at some point, you're going to get the benefits from it.
Another element was definitely coming to play more in the States; the conditions are different from what we grew up playing in Italy and in Europe in general. I think when you pull yourself out of your comfort zone, you're always going to learn something new.

Q. What about the new 5th hole?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yes, I played yesterday, the front nine, I played the new 5th hole, and because they moved the bunkers back as well, the tee shot is pretty much the same shot. The second shot, obviously is longer, considerably longer. So yesterday it was playing into the wind, and probably with the old tee, we would have been hitting 7‑iron in, and we were hitting 4‑iron in yesterday.
I think that's going to be around a three‑club difference, and the green is a little bit different. I think there's a possibility to put a new flag on the left. But yeah, I think on TV, it will look very similar to how it was, it will be hard for people watching on TV to notice the difference.

Q. Have you played with Tiger at the Masters, or just caddied in his group?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I have played‑‑ no, I haven't played with him here in Augusta, no.

Q. I know that was a long time ago in 2006, but is there a difference, do you think, with the circus and the activity that goes with Tiger when you're playing with him, is it different, do you think, at Augusta National just by the way it's run in terms of having more space to yourself inside, fewer cameras, photographers, etc., is it a big difference?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, it's a little bit different. It's a little bit calmer, again, in relative terms to what it is playing with him, but I guess it depends, as well, if it's going to be maybe Sunday afternoon in one of the last few groups, it might get a little bit more noisy and excited.
But I think in general, it's a little bit calmer than in most other places.

Q. You were probably about 12 when Rocca and John Daly had that playoff at St. Andrews. What do you remember watching about that? Where were you and how excited were you watching that?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, I remember watching it with my brother. We were in Sestriere, which is like a holiday place in the mountains close to our hometown in Turin. I think we were playing golf during the day and then at some point in the afternoon, we rushed into kind of a restaurant that had a TV with golf on and watched it.
Yeah, very exciting. Obviously great joy when he made the putt on 18, and then a little bit disappointed when he didn't win the playoff. But yeah, he was a great inspiration, watching him there. I remember him winning at Wentworth, at the time it was finished on Monday, and we came home after school and we managed to watch like the last couple of holes, and it's all stuff that makes you love the game even more and makes you try even harder to get here.

Q. Speaking of putts on 18, you've hit some big ones. I'm going back to the 2017 PGA at Quail Hollow, you were kind of in the mix there and I think you had a long par putt on 18; correct? Making that, that was a pretty big putt at the time, it kind of kept you in the mix, if Justin faded down the stretch‑‑ which he didn't‑‑ do you ever go back to that? Was that a help on your putt, at, say, Bay Hill or your putt at The Open Championship to seal it? Was that a big putt for you, the putt on 18 at Quail Hollow?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, it was definitely at the time, because like you said, the finishing at Quail Hollow is quite difficult, and I thought par gave me, on the 18th, gave me half a chance to maybe get into a playoff or something like that.
I think, you know, every putt is different. Obviously the more putts with that sort of pressure you have, the more I think you learn again, and the more when you have it again in the future, the best chance you have of making it in general.
I think that was a big week for me to see that I can compete in majors. It was probably the first step to get closer, to winning last year at The Open, yeah.

Q. Coming down the final few holes and the pressure is really amped up, do you tell yourself, this is when I play better, or do you just tell yourself, go through the normal process, so I'm just going to continue playing as I'm doing, or do you feel kind of inside, this is when I start to play better? What's your mind‑set there?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: No, the mind‑set is to keep doing what I'm doing and focus on the process and making all the processes I have out there with my caddie even more specific and more precise. But then, yeah, I love to be obviously in those situations and I think we all do, to be honest. Sometimes it goes well. Sometimes it doesn't. But that's why we work so hard. That's why we play is to be in those situations, and to have those putts or, you know, play those last few holes under that pressure.
THE MODERATOR: Francesco, on behalf of all of us here, I want to thank you for spending time with us. On behalf of all of the members at Augusta National, we wish you the best this week.

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