Francesco Molinari says his improved performance with his putter in the last 12 months was the key to his best ever round at The Masters on Friday
Francesco Molinari grabbed a share of the second round lead at the first major of the year after posting a bogey-free five-under-par 67, his best ever performance at Augusta National.
His round included birdies on third, eighth, ninth, 12th and 15th holes as Molinari carded only his second ever round in the 60s to post the clubhouse lead, before being joined by fellow major champions Jason Day and Brooks Koepka. The other was a 69 in the first round of the championship in 2012.
"Obviously it was a very good day for me. Started playing well from the beginning. Made a couple nice putts towards the end of the back nine. Yeah, didn't really get in trouble at any point. Just played solid."
“I feel a massive difference when I'm on the greens or around the greens compared to my previous times here."
The Open Champion teamed up with putting coach Phil Kenyon just over a year ago, and the transformation in his game in the last 12 months has more than proved the value of that new partnership.
For Molinari, it's the difference between a best result of T19 at the Masters in his last seven starts, and his place at the top of the leaderboard after round two of this year's championship.
Since they've been working together, he's had four worldwide victories - including his first major title at Carnoustie - and is currently ranked inside the World's top 10.
"I was talking to Phil Kenyon, my putting coach, after the round yesterday, he told me after the first round last year, I lost something like 4.5 shots on the greens. In the first round alone last year.
"So last year, I started working with him, I think a month before Augusta, and we didn't have enough time to do enough of what was needed to show up here and be competitive.
"I think that's what's making the difference so far; that on the greens and around the greens, I feel more comfortable. There's still shots that are going to make you feel uncomfortable at times, but I definitely feel I have a lot more control of my pace on the greens and in general with the chipping, the trajectory, the spin.
"I just feel better. I think that feeds into the long game, as well, knowing that I can hit the irons without being completely terrified of missing a green in the wrong spot."
In comparison to last year, Molinari was tied for 12th in putts per hole average stats after Thursday's round with 1.56, and currently sits at T3 with an average of 1.39 putts per hole in round 2.
So what work did they do?
"I've changed pretty much everything that you can think of," said Molinari. "So we started from setup, where I used to stand more upright; now I'm crouching more down towards the ball.
"My path used to be a lot more in‑to‑out, now it tends to be a bit more neutral. I've changed putter, putter shape. I used to have a line on the putter and now a dot for a line; tempo. Pretty much I could have started putting left‑handed, it would have been a similar process."
When we recently spoke to Phil Kenyon about his partnership with Molinari, he also said the focus had been a change in tempo.
"Before Frankie went to the States and won the Quicken Loans, we highlighted how his tendency is to get long and loaded in the backswing, and then decelerate too much. It’s the opposite of what the average golfer does, so we were working on improving his tempo.
"That really helped at The Open. He holed out really well on the back nine at Carnoustie. That week, we were just focusing on short putts but he was in good nick so there wasn’t anything overly specific."
Click here to read our full feature with Phil Kenyon, and what you can learn from one of the World's hottest putting coaches