Molinari keeps the good vibes going at John Deere Classic

Michael Kim takes commanding lead with four shots at halfway through second round of John Deere Classic before the round got suspended. Molinari shot 66.

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Molinari shot 66 in the rd 2 of John Deere Classic

July 14, 2018: Francesco Molinari is the only Italian to win the Italian Open, lives in London with his wife and two kids, and speaks Spanish to his Basque caddie.

One thing, though, was lost in translation. His putter wasn’t listening to him.

After a lackluster T25 finish at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, Molinari decided he had had enough. He called Englishman Phil Kenyon, putting coach to Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and others, and asked if Kenyon could take on another client.

“I thought the game was good early in the season, but there seemed to be something not quite right,” Molinari said after shooting a second-round 66 to get to 11 under par at the rain-interrupted John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run on Friday.

“Everything is coming together now,” Molinari added.

Yeah, you could say that, if being arguably the hottest player in golf is your thing.

Michael Kim takes commanding lead with four shots at halfway through second round before the round got suspended due to inclement weather.

David Hearn (64) and Steve Wheatcroft (68) are the clubhouse leaders through two rounds, at 12 under, one ahead of Molinari. Michael Kim was the leader at 16 under, but had one hole left in his second round when play was suspended for the second time for rain at 7:26 p.m.

Few would doubt, though, that Molinari is the most dangerous player on the leaderboard.

He shot a final-round 62 to win the Quicken Loans National two weeks ago, by eight shots. It was the first victory by an Italian on the PGA TOUR in over 70 years, and included an eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie turbo boost that left everyone else far behind. His tee-to-green performance was statistically the best by a winner on TOUR this season, and came on the heels of his big win at the European Tour’s BMW Championship. (He plays both tours.)

And yes, he also rolled it well on the greens at 17th in Strokes Gained: Putting.

“He’s more scientific,” Molinari said of his new putting coach, Kenyon. “We analyzed video and looked at the machines that measure the face angle, and my stroke wasn’t very good. Little by little be began to change things at Bay Hill, and it’s slowly gotten more consistent.”

All of which helps explain why Molinari, 15th in the world and the highest-ranked player at the Deere, has become a force to be reckoned with even on a course he’d never seen before this week. He decided to play the Deere because he needed to add a new event, and wanted to play his way into The Open Championship instead of taking this week off.

“Last year I didn’t play before The Open; I went to Birkdale to study the course, and it didn’t work out,” said Molinari, who missed the cut. “I had to play an event I hadn’t played in the previous four years, and thought it would be good to keep it going right until The Open.”

Next week he will be back on his home side of the Atlantic, where he lives with his wife, Valentina, and their kids, Tommaso, 7, and Emma, 2. Molinari said they thought of moving last year, maybe establishing a base in the United States, but they’ve been in London nine years. They have friends, and Tommaso goes to school there. It’s home, and you can’t argue with that.

Besides, in the midst of the best season of his career, in which he reached “the next level” with his eight-stroke romp at the Quicken Loans, Molinari would be crazy to change anything else.

India’s Arjun ATwal shot one-under 70 in the second round to close with three-under two day total.

PGA Tour Release

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