By Andrew Both
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (Reuters) – Francesco Molinari would be one of the favorites at the PGA Championship on a dry Bethpage Black, but heavy rains have left the Italian wondering whether he will be at a disadvantage.
The soggy 7,459-yard, par-70 course is long enough at the best of times, and this week it will offer little roll once the ball hits the ground, thereby affording the power players an even bigger edge than usual.
Asked to assess the course on Wednesday, Molinari provoked laughter when he said: “Long, very long and extremely long.
“You need to hit the fairways but even if you do there’s a long way to go. There are not many short holes.”
Molinari, who averages 289 yards with his driver this year, is not exactly short off the tee.
He will, however, likely find himself a good 30 or 40 yards behind defending champion Brooks Koepka more often than not when they play the first two rounds together, along with Tiger Woods in a high-profile threesome.
The PGA Championship does offer Molinari a quick chance to bounce back after his Masters disappointment.
The Italian had one arm in the Green Jacket until he plunked an eight-iron into Rae’s Creek at the par-three 12th, a pivotal moment that allowed the relentless Woods to emerge victorious at Augusta.
Had Molinari won the Masters, following his British Open triumph at Carnoustie last year, he would have been a centre of attention at Bethpage Black.
Instead, the 36-year-old has been all but ignored and his news conference was sparsely attended as he talked about how he hoped to turn his Masters disappointment into a positive.
“He’s (Woods) won 15 of these (majors). 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,” Molinari said.
Molinari said leading for much of the final round at the Masters had been a new experience.
“At Carnoustie I got the lead with only four holes to go, so you don’t really have time to think about it, and it’s done, it’s over,” he said.
“Augusta was different from that point of view. The main thing is to get in that situation as often as possible; then you’re going to win some and lose some, like everyone. No-one is unbeatable.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond)