Francesco Molinari is the only player among the top 50 in the world who has yet to return to competitive golf since the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, and he has withdrawn from the U.S. Open in two weeks.
But the Italian star, who won The Open in 2018 and was the 54-hole leader at the 2019 Masters won by Tiger Woods, said Tuesday that he is not injured, nor are there any burnout issues keeping him from playing.
In a series of tweets written in Italian, Molinari, 37, said it was more about a family move to California that has kept him away.
“I see a lot of questions,” he wrote. “I didn’t hang up the bag. I took a break to manage a life change with my family. I have no physical problems. I don’t feel burned out, but only time will tell.
“It will be hard to get back to the levels of 2018, no doubt; it wasn’t easy the first time. I am the only one who has not returned. I am well aware of it, but it is not the first time that I have made different or unpopular choices (see Rio 2016).”
Molinari withdrew from Italy’s Olympic team for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, also citing family reasons.
Molinari was as high as fifth in the world after winning three events in a six-tournament stretch in 2018, including The Open and the European Tour’s BMW Championship. He also went 5-0 for Europe at the Ryder Cup, then won the Arnold Palmer Invitational just a few weeks prior to the Masters last year.
But he was not the same after losing the lead at Augusta National and tying for fifth. Since then, he has no top-10 finishes, and earlier this year he missed three consecutive cuts before a tie for 53rd at the WGC-Mexico Championship. He withdrew from his Arnold Palmer defense due to back issues and played the first round of the Players Championship before it was canceled due to the pandemic.
Molinari, who has slipped to 50th in the world, thanked fans for their patience. It is unclear whether he will return for the Masters, where he is exempt due to his 2018 Open victory.
“I’ll be back in a while, I won’t tell you the exact time because I simply haven’t decided yet,” he said. “And yet it will depend on the schedule/preparation. As soon as I decide when to return you will know too. I hope it will be as soon as possible. Thanks again to those who support me in these moments.”