European Tour

Molinari stunned by 'incredible' 2018

Francesco Molinari (AP)
Francesco Molinari (AP)

Dubai - Newly-crowned European number one Francesco Molinari said he would have "laughed" if anyone had predicted his successes in an "incredible" 2018 campaign that culminated with the Race To Dubai title on Sunday. 

The 36-year-old Italian, who lifted his maiden major title at the British Open in July, wrapped up top spot in the European Tour's Order of Merit as his only rival for the title, his good friend and Ryder Cup teammate Tommy Fleetwood, failed to win the DP World Tour Championship. 

It finished off a season which also saw him claim the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, seal a first-ever tournament triumph on the USPGA Tour, and become the first European in history to win five matches at a Ryder Cup. 

"I can't wait to go back and sit down and really relive the last few months," said Molinari after finishing tied for 26th in the United Arab Emirates. 

"I'm not very proud of this week for the way I played but obviously I will remember it for a long time for winning The Race to Dubai. 

"It's just an incredible achievement again. I know I keep saying everything has been incredible, but if I think where I was before Wentworth this year, if someone told me I would go on to win Wentworth, win on the PGA Tour, win the Open, five points at the Ryder Cup, I probably would have laughed." 

Molinari had always been respected as a solid presence in professional golf, but his rise this year has been a surprise. 

He is the first Italian to ever become European number one, and has also climbed from 21st in the world rankings to seventh. 

Far more eyes will be on him in 2019 as he bids to cement his place at the top table of the world game. 

"Obviously next year, there's going to be a lot more expectation, and I need to be ready for that," admitted Molinari. 

"The goal is going to be to improve my golf, to improve physically, to improve putting -- so to try and be a better player. 

"And if the results are going to show it, great. If not, I still want to finish next season feeling like I'm a better player." 

For now, though, the unassuming Molinari will be heading home to spend time with his family, saying the Claret Jug he won at Carnoustie will have pride of place in his luggage.

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