Francesco Molinari Broke the Rules and Abandoned his Straight Line Drives
Francesco Molinari, 35 years of age and relatively short, was banging away at just over a distance of 300 yards from the tee. He had what some called a ‘classic swing,’ but eventually, it wasn’t enough for the Italian. He wanted more and got it, paving the way for a 2018 in which he won a major and went 5-0 in the Ryder Cup. He went from being a strong player to a downright scary one whenever he decided to get into contention. That extra twenty yards came from breaking all the rules. In the process, he answered one of my age old questions. That’s the way ‘they’ do it. Why can’t I?
Molinar is around 5’8″ with a strong torso. One of the tweaks he made to the classic swing was to go for a bigger turn on the backswing. Many sages have reminded us that the ball is not hit with the backswing and that the little sphere has no knowledge of what we’re doing back there. But, it is still an asset to bring the club into a strong steady place where it is most likely to follow a “clean” trajectory down. To get that bigger turn, Molinari distances his sternum high and far away from the ball. I understand the expansiveness of that to a point, but can feel the fear of lost control when we do it ourselves. I suppose one must work through that.Â Weekenders do love the illusion of control, and would often prefer to keep the fantasy by grabbing and clutching instead of letting go, replacing the habit and gaining real control. The next rule that went by the wayside in order to obtain Francesco’s extra twenty yards was to shamelessly lift the left heel off the ground – to get that weight fully shifted, I assume.
I remember a youth filled with different opinions on the transference of weight. In the beginning, the local pro recommended against it. Just stand on and over your left leg as if it were a pole, swivel to the right, then swivel to the left. How that was going to produce any power off the tee, I couldn’t fathom. I was right – there wasn’t any, no matter how hysterical I got. Molinari puts the left grip over the right shoulder, and the left arm in a higher position. All right, I’ve got it, so long as I retain the courage to keep putting it there. Automatically, the club is brought up higher, which in my experience requires that I bring it down more vertically. If the arm isn’t up and the grip isn’t over the shoulder, the club will have to come down even steeper to get into the track. I recall the days of experimenting with the takeaway. At one point, I lifted it almost vertically on the backswing, meaning that I had probably abandoned my transferring of weight almost entirely. And, sure enough, I didn’t start from the correct top position, and rammed the club into the ground more often not. I suffered this with the irons most of all, but no club was immune.
Now, back to my question. Why was I constantly told not to swing so hard, that it would go farther and more accurately if I dialed back and stroked the ball instead of hitting it? Even Sam Snead backed up that argument, but he hit it so much farther than I did. Why can Palmer swing like he’s putting one over the fence at Yankee Stadium, but I have to approach it in a total state of Zen? The real answer? Because they are who they are, and you are who you are. They can swing that hard, and keep the discipline. Molinari can keep on firing missiles all day, but sooner or later, we will send it to the weeds, or miss it altogether. The additional penalty is that adding twenty yards to my game qualifies me for more bunkers. For Molinari, a longer drive places the ball beyond their reach, and with the accumulation of distance, requires fewer and shorter shots. That doesn’t seem fair.
Molinari is now a feared presence on tour, and I am sure that more is coming from his new outlook in the coming year.Â As for the rest of us, perhaps we should start bending the rules and let our swings out, provided we’re in good enough health and have stretched first. I’m going to lift that heel, pick that club up high, find that ‘clean’ place and let ‘er rip, Why don’t you do the same? If onlookers think you’re crazy, tell them Francesco put you up to it, It seems to work well enough for him.