Francesco Molinari hoping L.A. move can reverse Riviera fortunes

After setting up home in California and becoming a member at Riviera, the Ryder Cup star will be looking to make a bigger impression at the Genesis Invitational

It's fair to say that Francesco Molinari hasn't enjoyed much luck in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera.

The star of the 2018 Ryder Cup has teed it up in the long-standing PGA TOUR event six times but missed the cut in four of them, including each of the last three.

There have been glimmers. A 4-under 67 on his very first lap of the course in 2014, a 69 in round one in 2016 and a second-round 69 in 2019.

But a pair of 75s last year left the Italian still scratching his head after another early exit.

However, all that could be about to change.

Last September, Molinari moved his family to Southern California and the 2018 Open champ decided it would be a smart idea to become a member of his local club.

The name of that club? Riviera.

Molinari suddenly has an interesting edge this week. And he'll hope that the extra knowledge can perhaps lead to a title challenge.

After six years of disappointment, just maybe Molinari has flipped the dynamic at Riviera. Or, nodding to a well-worn phrase, if you can't beat it, join it!

Molinari's Riviera course form: MC-MC-MC-52-MC-40
Molinari's Riviera course form: MC-MC-MC-52-MC-40

Here's what he said in Wednesday's press conference:

On making the move to Los Angeles

"It's been amazing so far. We moved here around the middle of September last year, so I started asking around obviously which courses were a good option for me. Pretty much everyone I asked advised Riviera was going to be the best solution. Yeah, so I got the ball rolling and the club has been kind enough to have me join. It's been great. I've played a lot of rounds since then, obviously met a few members, played a few games with them. And we live literally five, six minutes away, so it's a very easy commute for me."

On how his new familiarity with Riviera could lead to a better result this week

"We'll find out soon enough. Yeah, it's a tournament I've always loved, but unfortunately I never really played that well in the past. Yeah, I mean, I think I played, like I said, a lot of rounds during the winter and I got to play the course better and better. Obviously conditions are not quite the same. Yeah, I hope, you know, on the greens and with the strategy of the different holes, shot selection, hopefully the rounds that I've played this winter I can have more success around here."

On life in L.A.

"Life in L.A. has been really good so far. My family loves it, I like it a lot. We've been lucky enough to find good schools for the kids. We go to the beach often, the weather obviously has been a massive improvement from spending the winter in Europe. And the Italian food is not too bad. Yeah, there's some pretty good spots."

On managing expectations as he tries to recapture the form of 2018 and early 2019

"For me I think the second half of 2019 was difficult because I had very high expectations and was coming from a really great period of golf. I think now I'm in a different space. You know, I've had nearly a year off last year, so my expectations, especially now early in the season are not that high. It's nice to be back, it's nice to be feeling like I'm getting better and playing some better golf, but I know it's going to be a long way back."

On what schedule he might play in 2021

"I don't know with the pandemic obviously where we're going to go towards the summer, but hoping that things are going to be better than now, the plan will be to go to Europe when the kids finish school over here and spend probably maybe six to eight weeks in Europe. They would obviously make a base in Italy somewhere and just enjoy the summer, and I would go in and out and play a few tournaments in Europe then. So that's the idea of how to kind of play both tours this year. We'll have to see obviously what happens with the pandemic and the charter restrictions, but hopefully that's going to be the case."

On returning to form with top 10s in two of his last three starts

"I think I'm definitely building some momentum. I think about last week, obviously Fooch (Mark Fulcher), my caddie, tested positive at the beginning of the week so he wasn't on the bag. I think that affected me, especially the weekend. It's mentally a lot harder when you have to do pretty much everything yourself on the course and you don't have the usual support from your caddie. But yeah, that far I was building nice momentum. I'm playing decently, putting decently, especially considering this part of the schedule has never been my really strongest part of the year. So hopefully Fooch can be back soon and we can get back to good results pretty soon."

On his topped tee shot at Pebble Beach last week

"I'm surprised it took so long to hear the question! I don't know. I think there's many explanations and none, really. The weather. I was messing around with 3-woods last week so I played with a different 3-wood pretty much every day and probably, you know, went a bit too far with that. But yeah, just a bad swing, bad conditions, probably not my favorite club in the bag and that happened."

On whether he'd pick himself for this year's Ryder Cup

"Well, I think it's too early to say that. There's still a lot of golf to be played. I think if I play great golf, there's still a chance to make the team. If I play really good golf, hopefully I'll be considered for the picks, but I'm sure it's going to depend a lot on how I play between now and September."

On whether he'd be happy to be part of the backroom staff if not making the Ryder Cup team

"I haven't been asked, but yeah, I would love to be there in any capacity. Obviously the goal is to be there as a player, but yeah, we'll see how the year goes. I'm sure we'll have that conversation if needed at some point, too."

* Molinari is 7/2 with Unibet to finish in the top 20 and 100/1 to win the tournament.

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