Posted by Rob Weider on

What Francesco Molinari’s Open win tells us about the state of professional golf

What Francesco Molinari’s Open win tells us about the state of professional golf


It’s been a funny old year for Italian sport. Firstly, they had to watch from afar as the world came together to enjoy a football tournament that they’ve won four times as a nation – but which they didn’t even qualify for this time around. Still on football (arguably Italy’s national sporting obsession), they pulled off one of the transfers of the year when Turin club Juventus signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid for €100,000,000. But then, just when things were looking up, cycling star Vincenzo Nibali crashed out of the Tour de France when his handlebars caught in a spectator’s handbag strap.

So, it’s been one of those years, of ups and downs and unexpected dramas. But for me, there was one shock result that stands out above all others – Francesco Molinari’s win at Carnoustie to claim the British Open Championship for the first time. Molinari claimed the title by two shots, ahead of Justin Rose and Xander Schauffele, and he did so in style.

It’s been quite a year for Molinari. Up to this year, he’d only won four tournaments since he became a professional, way back in 2004. Just four tournaments – but now, in the last seven months or so he has been on a real roll. So far this year, he’s picked up the Quicken Loans National title and the BMW PGA Championship – and he now has the British Open Championship’s Claret Jug to add to that collection. But what does Molinari’s Open win really tell us about the state of professional golf at the moment? Here are my thoughts.

It shows that anyone can win.

We’ve become used to the dominance of players like Dustin Johnson, the world number one, but Molinari’s win is a timely reminder that even unfancied players stand a chance in the big tournaments. Molinari’s win will now move him up to sixth in the PGA world rankings, but for me his win at Carnoustie is a lesson that it is often not about where a player sits on a league table, but rather his form that counts.

Molinari has, in many ways, been one of the most in form players on the professional circuit in recent months, and his win at the Open is testament to this. They say that ‘form is temporary and class is permanent’, but on a course as mentally and physically challenging as Carnoustie any player needs to be at the top of their game on the day – regardless of where they sit in the rankings.

It’s a huge boost for Italian golf.

Italy is obsessed with sport – just not, so far, with golf. But Francesco Molinari’s win is a real shot in the arm for the game in Italy – he’s the first Italian to win a major, and he’s a warm, engaging ambassador for the game there. Molinari himself is a true product of Italy’s golfing development system. He rose up through the ranks of Italy’s youth and amateur systems, and his success at the British Open is the result of a lot of the support and development he’s received over the years. His birdies on the 14th and the 18th on that final round showed his coolness under pressure, and as he raised the iconic Claret Jug above his head it’s to be hoped that young Italian players will be inspired to follow in his footsteps.

It proves that it’s not all about Tiger Woods.

For so much of this year’s British Open tournament, the spotlight was on Tiger Woods. He’d shown such an unexpected surge of form that it wasn’t unreasonable to think that we were about to witness the unthinkable – a return to winning ways for this troubled golfing legend. But, it wasn’t to be for Woods – a couple of missed putts and a few wayward drives and the chance slipped away, and the moment and the opportunity was there for Francesco Molinari to seize.

I for one was delighted to see Molinari step up and take his chance as Tiger Woods’ challenge faded – not because of any dislike for Woods, but rather because it shifted the narrative back to where I think it should be. Woods has dominated golf on and off the course for many years now, and it feels right that the battle at Carnoustie was won by a new name, from a country that has had limited success in the sport.

For me, that’s what sport is all about – and I think that Molinari’s win is good for golf, it’s good for him, and it’s great for a proud sporting nation.

Posted by Rob Weider on

The golfer I’ve learned the most from over the years – Rob Weider

The golfer I’ve learned the most from over the years – Rob Weider

Rob Weider - The golfer I've learned the most from over the years

One of the most wonderful things about playing golf – in fact playing any sport – is the sense that you are following in the footsteps of the players who have gone before you. Whatever your standard, you will have players who have inspired you over the years. They will have influenced how you play, your style, your attitude and your whole approach to the game.

And of course, in the world of golf, there are so many great players out there to learn from. If I could play a single putt half as good as that one I remember Tiger Woods sinking on his way to winning the 2000 PGA Championship, or get anywhere near the standard of some of Jack Nicklaus‘ tee shots over the years, I’d hang my golf clubs up tomorrow, a happy man. It’s probably never going to happen, but it is in part the inspirational performances of these great players over the years that has driven me on and encouraged me to think about how I can improve my own game.

My greatest teacher

But whenever I’m asked which of these great golfers of the past has had the most impact on my game, I can honestly say that none of them can compare to one person whose influence stands head and shoulders above the rest: my father. For me, there really is no one else who has made a bigger impact on my golf game – after all, he was the one who got me into golf originally and who has taught me how to continue to improve my game over the years. He has taught me how to play the game the right way, he’s given me the grounding in the etiquette of golf that every player should build their game on, he took me out for those long hours of practice, and he has always encouraged and motivated me in everything I do.

Grit and determination

Wherever and whenever I play I can still his classic phrase of ‘keep trying, never give up’ ringing in my ears to this day. He must have said it at least five times every time we played when I was a young, inexperienced golfer, and it is a mantra that has since got me through many difficult situations on (and sometimes even off) the golf course. From an early age my father did a fantastic job of instilling in me an attitude of positivity and determination that has been invaluable to me over the years. Golf can be a tough game, but my father’s example showed me that there is always a creative solution that can be found to solve even the trickiest problem. 

Now that we’re living on different continents we obviously don’t get to play as much as we once did – but I do try to get to Florida once a year, where he lives for six months of the year, to visit him and have a round or two of golf. It’s a great time to catch up – not just on the usual family news, but also on our respective games – he’s always very keen to hear how I’m golfing and how I’m improving (or not). In particular, he always wants to know whether my temper is still as bad as his was on the golf course – when I was younger we used to have some fiery and competitive rounds together. Thankfully I’ve calmed down a lot over the years and try to just have fun now as opposed to taking it too seriously. I think that this kind of level headedness is something that certainly comes with age and experience and that my game is all the better for it. That said, there is still no one who can bring out my competitive streak quite like my father.

A common bond

Sport plays such a huge role in many people’s lives, all around the world – and having a shared passion like golf is a kind of glue that can bind families and friends ever closer together. Golf connects my father and I across thousands of miles – and along with baseball, it is one of the sports that we’ve probably spent the most time watching, playing and talking about together over the years.

So, I cherish those times I get to spend with him, as they don’t come around too often anymore – and I think of him, and the great advice and companionship he’s given me over the years, every time I pick up a club and head out onto the course.

Rob Weider 

Posted by Rob Weider on

Heroes – the players who have inspired me over the years

Heroes – the players who have inspired me over the years


How do we choose our sporting heroes? Sometimes, it could be an individual performance that sticks in the memory and moves us for some reason. For others it could be an attitude – a way of playing that just excites you and makes you want to root for them. For others still, it could be about inspiration – we fall in love with players who we ourselves would like to emulate, who may even share some of our own qualities, (albeit at a much higher level!).

So, when I’m asked who my favourite player is, I have to admit that I struggle to choose just one. In some ways it’s easier to say who I’m not so keen on – players like Tiger Woods or Dustin Johnson for example. But there are a number of players who I love to watch for very different reasons – so, here’s my round up of some of them.

Phil Mickelson

One of those players who I just have an affinity for – not least because he’s a lefty, like me. He’s also an honest player – a grafter, but with a creative enough imagination to play some brave and imaginative shots when he needs to. He’s also just an all-round good guy – he looks after his family, and he also takes the time to acknowledge the massive input of his caddie when he enjoys a success. When Phil picked up his second US Masters Tournament victory in Augusta in 2006 – his third major championship at that point – he made sure his caddie was able to come along to the celebratory club dinner that night. One of the good guys.

Tom Watson

Another hard worker – one of the most intense players you’re ever likely to see out on the course, and someone who was very aware of the mental side of the game (he was asked in 1977 who he saw as his biggest threat as he entered the last day of the Masters – his answer was ‘myself’). He’s also responsible for one of my biggest regrets in golf, when he broke so many hearts in Turnberry at the Open Championship back in 2009. Aged 59, and with a hip replacement behind him, he’d birdied to lead by one going into the final hole. I was there watching when he was walking down the 18th, thinking I was watching history – but sadly it wasn’t to be, as ultimately Stewart Cink stepped up to take the title.

Henrik Stenson

You’ve got to love a player who is prepared to strip down to his underwear to play a golf shot in order to avoid getting his clothes muddy. Henrik Stenson did just that back in 2009 on a course in Florida – and caused a minor stir at the time – but he’s a player who has more to his game than just a willingness to try the unusual once in a while. He won the 2016 Open after one of the best final rounds of golf I’ve ever seen – holding off the aforementioned Phil Mickelson in a truly memorable tussle that went all the way to the wire. It was a day that for me showcased one of Henrik’s finest qualities – his ability to hold his ice cool nerve under pressure – and I’m sure it will serve him very well in many more tournaments in the future.

Sergio Garcia

My final pick is a player who has had a pretty rocky relationship with fans (especially US ones) over the years, thanks to a bitter rivalry with Tiger Woods and his influential role in the European Ryder Cup team. But he is a player who I never tire of watching – and I’m so glad that he finally found the success he deserves last April in Augusta. He’s a supremely talented golfer, but one who, for whatever reason, seemed destined never to fully hit the heights. Consider the stats – up to the moment in which he clinched the Masters, he’d had 73 failed attempts to win a major, with four runners up spots, 12 finishes in the top five, and 22 in the top 10. Winning at the Masters then was richly deserved – this is someone who knows the meaning of persistence, and I’m glad that he never gave up on his dream.

Robert Weider 

Head back to my home page to check out some of my other articles. 

Posted by Rob Weider on

Robert Weider – A look ahead to professional golf in 2018

Robert Weider – A look ahead to professional golf in 2018

Robert Weider - A look ahead to professional golf in 2018

What does 2018 have in store for the world of golf? Here are my thoughts on what I think could be a very special year for European golf in particular.

Return of a legend

For me, 2018 is all about one player – one who many people thought was done: Tiger Woods. He’s 42 now, and has struggled badly with the back injury that has prevented him from playing for the best part of the last two seasons. But, he’s still Tiger Woods, and that means he has the ability and the fierce competitiveness that only someone who has 79 PGA Tour victories to his name can deploy. He’s making his return to the PGA Tour in January this year at a course that he has already had a considerable amount of success at – Torrey Pines near San Diego. He’s won there before, eight times, picking up seven tour wins and a US Open title, so it will hopefully be a happy return for this legendary player. Fitness has been a huge issue for Tiger recently – it’s been a long time since managed more than 15 starts in a PGA Tour (way back in 2013) – so I’ll be watching him closely this year to see how he gets on.

… and the return of the Ryder Cup

For only the second time in its long and illustrious history, the Ryder Cup will be held on continental Europe. Like most golf fans, I’ve got a real soft spot for this biennial head-to-head between the US and Europe’s best players – it’s thrown up some memorable moments over the years. What sports fan couldn’t fall in love with the game when it gives you drama like Ian Poulter’s five birdies in a row to kick-start Europe’s comeback in 2012. Or, who could fail to be moved by the sight of the recently bereaved Darren Clarke’s emotional round with Lee Westwood, which played such an important role in Europe’s victory that year. The Ryder Cup really is something special, and I’m hugely excited to see what will unfold in Paris this year. The course looks a testing one too – L’Albatros has been described by Lee Westwood as his favourite course in Europe, so it should be a fitting setting for this iconic event.

One to watch

It’s got to be Paul Casey. He’s been away from the European Tour for the last three years, but now he’s back, and that’s great news for Europe – especially as 2018 is a Ryder Cup year. Only players who are members of the European Tour can qualify for the European Ryder Cup team or can be picked for wild cards, so this is a real boost for a team who will fancy their chances in Paris this September. I think this could be a huge year, not just for Paul, who I think could easily pick up his first major, but also for European golf as a whole, with the potential for a big win over the US in Paris. Here’s hoping anyway.

Time for a Grand Slam?

Remarkably, this year could see three different players complete their own career grand slams of  major titles. Only five players have done this in the Masters era – Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen – but this year could see those elite ranks swelling. Rory McIlroy just needs to add the Masters, Phil Mickelson the U.S. Open and Jordan Spieth the PGA Championship in order to be ranked along these former greats – and I’m really looking forward to seeing if any of them manage it.

A very special course

I also have a personal golfing ambition this year. You may have seen the recent news stories about the possibility of part of the historic Fanling course in Hong Kong being used to build a new housing development. Of course there are arguments either way on this matter – and the Hong Kong Golf Club’s lease on the course doesn’t run out until 2020 anyway – but I’m going to do my best to play as much golf as I can on this beautiful course over 2018. I’ve made some good friends out on the greens here, and shared some memorable moments on what can be an incredibly testing course. So, I’m determined to make sure that I spend more time on Fanling this year, whether or not its time is running out.

 – Robert Weider 

For more news and opinions, head back over to my home page now. 

Posted by Rob Weider on

Hong Kong Open Highlights

Hong Kong Open Highlights

Rob Weider - PGA European Tour

I know as well as anyone that golf is a journey. It’s quite possibly what I love most about the sport: the game is a steady process of ups and downs over the years – sometimes you get better, sometimes you get worse – but the overall arc – you hope – is one of improvement.

So, if you’re prepared to put the time and the hard work in, golf is hugely rewarding. Thanks to the handicap system there are few other games that give you such accurate, immediate feedback on just how well you’re progressing. This experience of slow and steady improvement is certainly reflected in what I’ve seen in my own game over the years, as I’ve played on many different courses around the world. And it was on one of my favourite courses – which I play regularly here in Hong Kong – that we’ve just seen another fantastic example of what a journey a career in golf really can be.

Close to home

Living and working in Hong Kong, I’m pretty familiar with the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling. It’s been the setting for the Hong Kong Open (part of the European Tour) since 1959, and, as with the US Open in Augusta, it is one of the very few tournaments that has been hosted by only one club for such a long time. It’s a great course, and so I was delighted to see that this year’s event really served up a fantastic story for golf fans.

Hard work pays off

In the final round, Australian professional Wade Ormsby won the tournament to claim his first European Tour win – after an incredible 264 attempts. It’s a fantastic achievement for a golfer who is now, by his own admission, in the later stages of his career. A real example to every player to understand the importance of persistence and hard work. “It means a lot to me,” he told the PGA European Tour website. “I’ve played a lot of golf in Europe – everywhere – with a few bumps along the way, but it’s pretty cool to get a win this late in your career.”

A close finish

It was a fantastic end result for Ormsby – his first European Tour win and only his second win as a professional – but it hadn’t all gone his way. He’d had to fight off an earlier challenge by India’s SSP Chawrasia, who had led Ormsby by four shots before triple bogeying at the ninth to fall away from the leading group.

It went right down to the wire too – Wade’s win came after his rival Rafael Cabrera-Bello birdied the 17th to pull level going into the 18th, and then needed just a par on the final hole to force the tournament into a play off with Ormsby. In the end, however, Cabrera-Bello missed his chance when he put his second shot into the bunker, and Ormsby, who had bogeyed the 18th, could finally breath a sigh of relief and celebrate. Ormsby finished with a final round of 68 to end 11 under par, a shot ahead of Cabrera-Bello, Alexander Bjork, Julian Suri and Paul Peterson.

Getting better with age

While it was a difficult day in the end for Rafael Cabrera-Bello, this year’s Hong Kong Open was the scene of a remarkable performance by another Spaniard – Miguel Ángel Jiménez, who came home with an impressive round of 63. Jiménez – who is now 53 – has had his own taste of success here at the Hong Kong Open, becoming the oldest ever European Tour winner back in 2014. Once again, the performance by Jiménez was testament to the rewards that golf can continue to give you, no matter how far into your career you are.

All in all, this year’s Hong Kong Open was a tournament that has shone a light on the Hong Kong Golf Club – it’s always a friendly, open event to attend, in a stunning setting, but I’m also delighted that the golf itself delivered such an exciting finale. The club was founded way back in 1889, and it seems to me, that like Wade Ormsby and Miguel Ángel Jiménez, some things just are getting better with age.

– Robert Weider

For more great insight and analysis, head back to my homepage now.