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May 15, 2019

Francesco Molinari

Farmingdale, New York

JON DEVER: Good afternoon. Or good morning still, everybody. Welcome back to the 2019 PGA Championship here at Bethpage Black. I'm pleased to be joined by Francesco Molinari, the 2018 Champion Golfer of the Year, and welcome to what is your 11th PGA Championship, and what's really special or noteworthy about that is you've never missed the cut here, 10 for 10, and lately, 2017, you finished runner up, and last year even T6 and you were right in the thick of it. What about this championship, why and how is this going well for you this year?

FRANCESCO MOLINARI: I wish I knew, to be honest with you. It's just been a good relationship, I guess, if you can call it like that. I think I had my first top 10 in a major at the U.S. PGA, as well. So yeah, probably the setup of the courses, it's usually important to hit fairways and hit greens and probably, yeah, just the kind of courses and layouts that this championship has been played on I think have suited my game well in the past. Hopefully I'll keep that streak going this week.

JON DEVER: It's been 10 months since you won at Carnoustie, but it's been a whirlwind of great play, some close finishes at Bellerive last year, at Augusta, and that doesn't even include your perfect time at Le Golf National. How special has this been? Do you understand how much this is going to stand out in your career?

FRANCESCO MOLINARI: A little bit. I guess you need more time really to digest everything. Fortunately things keep coming my way, and obviously I like it. I love and enjoy every single minute. I've enjoyed last season, also, before winning the Open at Carnoustie. But yeah, it's always fun. It doesn't seem like 10 months have been passed already since two weeks ago we were there at Carnoustie.

It's been great, and I think the job for me now is obviously to do my best to keep it going, and in a few years hopefully to reflect and look back and appreciate what I managed to achieve definitely in these last few months.

Q. In the last decade, many American golfers in their 20s have dominated the sport. In your 20s you were climbing the European ranks. Kept climbing and steadily climbing and improving. The last 20 months have been phenomenal. Are you at your peak, or do you still see room for improvement in your game and you could become a really dominant golfer in the next four or five years?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Well, you know, I've got some thoughts of that, but I cannot know for certain. I hope this is not my peak. I think there's more room for improvement. But I think at the same time, in golf and in sports in general, you need to keep improving even just to stay where you are in the ranks. There's new players coming through all the time and more talent, so even just to maintain your level, you need to keep improving. Honestly, I don't know how much I can improve. I know I can improve some, but I can't tell you if that's going to be enough to improve like results or improve my rankings or if that's going to be just enough to maintain where I am at the moment.

Q. Do you have to make any adjustments playing this in May as opposed to August? How does it impact your schedule since you're playing two tours, and can your good relationship with this tournament continue despite the schedule change? Is there any reason to believe it won't?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Well, yeah, obviously the schedule has changed, but I think both tours have tried to accommodate the changes, so obviously around this time of the year we'll be usually in Wentworth playing the BMW PGA, and that's now in the fall. It hasn't really changed, I guess, the amount of weeks or anything like that.

It's different. It's definitely different to have a major coming so soon after Augusta. You know, we weren't used to that. But in a way, I think if you hit a good period of form at the right time, it can be amazing because you've got four majors coming pretty much one after the other.

I think it's going to be interesting for everyone, definitely the course this week, but maybe going forward, as well. Every course will play different in May compared to August. Temperatures are very different this week compared to Bellerive or Quail Hollow. If you think about the last few U.S. PGAs, it was seriously warm, and we haven't got any of that this week.

Q. Tiger being center stage this week, can you describe a little bit your interactions over the years with him, playing against him and all that? And also if the pressure of the fans when you're playing with Tiger is a factor to take into account in New York.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, so I said that obviously when I started 15 years ago, I wasn't even dreaming of playing against Tiger, so I feel lucky enough to have played with him many times now in many important moments, as well, for obviously my career but for his career, too.

So yeah, we've had a good relationship, and I'm sure both of us hope for many more occasions where we can play together in big moments.

And yeah, about the fans, I was saying that there's a lot of Italians here in New York, and obviously they've made their presence clear to me in the last few days, and hopefully they'll keep it going the next few days, and I'll have a few more fans than the ones I had in Augusta.

Q. What were the days and weeks like after Augusta, just getting over what happened there?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: No, I mean, there wasn't much getting over anything. Obviously there was, I think -- it took some time to recover physically because I wasn't 100 percent all week in Augusta, and I was taking antibiotics, and I think it was a big effort to do what I did, and probably on Sunday, when the adrenaline kind of went down, I felt how much I was spending energy-wise during those days.

So I think the week after, obviously I played at Hilton Head, but I wasn't nearly ready to play. In a way it was good because it gave me the weekend off to recover a bit more, and then, yeah, got home and started working again. I've obviously analyzed what happened at Augusta with the people around me, but it was pretty quick, I would say, and straightforward.

Q. What did you have sickness-wise?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Just a sore throat and a bug that I got from the kids at the beginning of the week. But nothing major, and I was feeling well enough, obviously, to play well in Augusta. But I think sometimes in those circumstances, you ask a lot to your body, and then at some point you're going to pay a price for it.

Q. I know you have a really good team around you with Denis Pugh, but you've also added Dave Alred into the mix, and I know you've said he's bridged the gap between you swinging well and scoring well. Can you give a little insight into the work you've done with him, maybe a little detail about what you do to better prepare?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah, well, it's hard to sum it up in just a few words, but basically he's completely changed the way I practice and prepare for tournaments. I think making me more accountable for every shot in practice is the easiest way to describe it.

Before, my practice was a lot more repetitive and just hitting thousands of balls without really gaining too much from it, and I think now I'm hitting less shots on the range, but every shot is kind of more important and more -- I think more about it all the time.

And that's helped me, like you say, bridge the gap, then to going out on the course and obviously having one shot, one opportunity to do well, and if you don't hit a good shot, you don't get another chance, you need to move on and start again.

I think he's helped me mainly to get a lot better at that.

Q. Out of what happened at Augusta, will you take anything from that and apply it to this week?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: No. I mean, to be honest, I cannot think of anything. I think we got some feedback, obviously, on -- most of it on the swing. If I look at Sunday at Augusta, I think I almost played better on the back nine than on the front nine, like how I was hitting the ball. The front nine I wasn't feeling very comfortable hitting the ball off the tee, and I made a lot of good up-and-downs. But obviously I think you struggle to build momentum when you're struggling to save par the whole time.

I think the back nine I swung the club better. I obviously hit a couple of bad shots, but a lot of good swings, as well, under pressure. So that's what we focused on the last couple of weeks prepping for this week, and then we'll see obviously if I'm up there again on Sunday, maybe I could take something that could be useful from Augusta.

But right now, to be honest, I can't really think of much. It's just being in the situation, obviously the more often you get into it, naturally the better you're going to get at it, and the more relaxed you're going to feel in those conditions.

Q. A lot of people saw on television how Tiger played in that final round at Augusta. I was wondering if I could ask your perspective of what it was like to observe perhaps some of the more subtle things he did, how he would use his body language to intimidate you and Tony in the group. Is there anything you can learn from seeing how he conducted himself to increase the pressure?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: No, to be honest, I've been asked after Sunday, and I didn't really notice anything different or -- so I guess my answer is no. Obviously you can learn from him the way he managed the golf course and the way he was hanging on even when maybe things weren't really going his way, and that's really the stuff that I think I can learn from. He's won obviously 15 of these, and he knows how to do it.

But I don't know, I didn't see any intimidating or anything like that, to be honest.

Q. I followed you and Tommy this morning. What were your impressions of how the golf course was playing?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Long, very long, and extremely long. (Laughter.)

Yeah, we hit -- we both hit 3-woods into 10 and 12. Yeah, I mean, it's just a course where you need to hit the fairways, but even if you do hit the fairways, then there's a long way to go. There's not many short holes.

I think probably 11 or 12 holes out of 18, you'd be extremely happy with par. The greens I think, as well, are going to make it very difficult. The greens are really fast, I think faster than anytime I've been here in the past, and that's obviously a big factor if you're coming in with 3-woods and hybrids and 4-irons.

Yeah, I mean, I don't see the scoring being too low, but we'll see what kind of conditions we get in the tournament days and how they decide to set up the course exactly.

Q. Sort of looking at it on paper, winning the BMW last year and holding off Rory, what kind of -- was that a major step for you in your career when you walked off? Did that feel like something that was really special?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I think the way I did it, kind of going head-to-head with Rory on Sunday, and also the fact that it was a tournament where I had been leading or close to the lead many times in the past and I could never close it out.

So yeah, the fact that I managed to do it and the way in which I did it obviously gave me a lot of confidence that then I kind of carried over in the following weeks. You know, like I said at the beginning, I feel very lucky to have been able to play this kind of golf in the last few months and to have wins coming like they have, and with every win comes a little more confidence.

I'm aware that at some point it will probably stop, but I'll try to keep it going as long as possible.

Q. When you left Augusta, did you leave with the feeling, that should have been me, or did you leave saying, I was sick, I played well, I'm satisfied?
FRANCESCO MOLINARI: No, I wasn't satisfied, no. I wasn't satisfied at all. But I mean, immediately after you obviously look at things a bit differently, as well. I was, I would say, happy because I was happy the way I fought on Sunday and the way I played, but obviously I was hoping for more at the beginning of the day.

But I think for me really it was the first time that I was leading in a major, meaning that at Carnoustie I got the lead with only four holes to go, so you don't have even really time to think about it, and it's done, it's over. Augusta was different from that point of view.

I think the main thing, like I said before, is to get into that situation as often as possible; then you're going to win some and lose some like everyone. No one is unbeatable. But hopefully I can be there many more times and get a bit of luck at the right time, one or two weeks.

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