Francesco Molinari hails ‘invaluable’ match play experience in Hero Cup win

Captain Francesco Molinari led from the front as Continental Europe beat favourites Great Britain and Ireland by four points in the Hero Cup.

Molinari went out first in Sunday’s singles against Shane Lowry and came out on top in a heavyweight battle of former Open champions with a 3&2 victory at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

GB&I captain Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton hit back with wins over Thomas Pieters and Antoine Rozner respectively, but victories for Nicolai Hojgaard – a late replacement for twin brother Rasmus – Adrian Meronk, Sepp Straka, Victor Perez and Guido Migliozzi sealed victory by 14.5 to 10.5.

Francesco Molinari led Continental Europe to victory
Francesco Molinari led Continental Europe to victory (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

The competition effectively fills the gap left by the Seve Trophy, which was held eight times between 2000 and 2013 and gave captaincy experience to future Ryder Cup skippers Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn.

Current Europe captain Luke Donald oversaw the contest and Molinari believes it will have provided valuable experience ahead of September’s bid to regain the trophy in Rome.

“Invaluable, really, especially for the younger guys,” said Molinari, who partnered Fleetwood to four wins in the 2018 Ryder Cup and also beat Phil Mickelson in the singles for a perfect 5-0 record.

“But even for us, to play match play, just get the juices going early this early in the year, it’s a great event. We really enjoy it. The DP World Tour has done a great job at setting it up. Obviously the crowds have enjoyed it as well.

“I think we played some really good golf all in all, so hopefully we can do it again next year or the year after. It’s been great all week, super happy for the guys. It’s been very, very easy leading them and being a captain for them.”

Molinari won three and a half points from his four matches and when asked about making Donald’s team for Rome, said: “It’s a great motivation for me.

“I think I just need to be careful, because it’s still a long way away. I just need to focus on my game, but it’s definitely been a lot better than it has. Being in Rome would be absolutely incredible.”

A disappointed Fleetwood said: “We obviously came here to win and wanted to do it for each other. The first thing I said at the start of the week was ‘your team-mates don’t remember if you play bad, miss a putt or lose a point’.

“But everybody remembers if you don’t give 100 per cent and I couldn’t have asked for any more from anybody this week.

“It’s been an amazing experience for me and I’ve loved playing with my team-mates. But they clearly deserved it this week, they played the best golf and the winning team makes those moments count.”