5 Greatest Italian Golfers of All-Time
Ah, Italy. Home to great food, great wine and some pretty terrific golfers. It’s a country that has produced a number of top players over the years but has never had the success it deserves. In this list we are going to take you through who we think are the 5 best Italian Golfers of all Time.
There are a few players we could pick for the honourable mention. Players like Fredrica Dassu and Diana Luna have been leading lights of the Italian women’s game, racking up 11 LET wins between them. In the men’s game, Andrea Pavan and Renato Paratore have enjoyed two wins on the European Tour each.
But we’re giving the honourable mention to the current top ranked Italian golfer in the world, Guido Migliozzi. Currently aged 24, Guido played his first full season on the European Tour in 2019 with great success. He won twice that year, claiming victory at the Magical Kenya Open and the Belgian Knockout. This was enough to see him break the world’s top 100 though he would slip out of it again before close of the season.
2020 was a difficult and inconsistent year for Migliozzi. He made just 6 out of 16 cuts, recording two top ten finishes in the process. But 2021 has been much kinder and Migliozzi sits at 69th in the world, one spot off his highest career ranking. He has had three runner-up finishes on the European Tour this season and even finished T4th at the US Open.
Migliozzi is an exciting young player and it will be exciting to see how far his career will go.
5. Alfonso Angelini
Angelini may not be a name you are familiar with, but he had a considerable amount of success in the game of golf, particularly in his native Italy. Born in 1918, he tasted his first professional success (as far as we are aware) in 1945. Of course, records are somewhat sketchy the further in time we go back meaning Angelini could have won earlier or more frequently than is documented. Of the 19 wins we know he had, 14 came in Italy, including 11 wins at the Italian Native Open!
His recorded wins spanned a total of 25 years, his final victory in 1970 when he triumphed at the Lancia d’Oro at the age of 52. He only ever played in 6 Open Championships and 1 Masters, making the cut in only two of the Opens, his best finish being T12th.
And while it is clear that Angelini was a successful golfer over a long period of time, he was also more than just a player. In 1962 he co-founded the Professional Golfers Association of Italy along with Ugo Grappasonni and Aldo Casera, the trio becoming affectionately known as ‘The Three Muskateers’.
Angelini was a talented player whose list of triumphs is possibly even greater than we expect but it was perhaps the part he played in founding the PGA of Italy that will be his lasting legacy.
4. Matteo Manassero
When Matteo Manassero hit the professional ranks, he had stardom written all over him. A smiling, likeable character with a hot putter and Kinder written across his cap, the Italian quickly became a fan favourite. He also quickly became a winner on the European Tour.
He turned pro in May 2010, two weeks after his 17th birthday. A sensational second half to the season saw him record a T3rd, a T2nd and victory on the European Tour. The win made him the youngest winner in European Tour history and everything looked set for him to push on.
Another win in 2011 meant that he now had two wins on the European Tour before turning 18 and was now the youngest and second youngest player to win on the Tour, a record he still holds today. Wins followed in 2012 and 2013, the latter his biggest victory by some margin after he claimed the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. He also reached his best world ranking of 25th in the world and looked to have really arrived on the world stage.
And that’s where it all went wrong.
Matteo was not a short hitter and went off in search of some extra length. Unfortunately, as we all know, it’s not just a case of swinging the club harder and Manassero’s game began to slide. Not just slide, capitulate. In 2020, he had to go back and play on one of the European Tour’s satellite tours, the Alps Tour. This is the equivalent of two tours below the European Tour. By the time he played his first event on the tour he was ranked over 1,800 in the world.
Happily though, Manassero triumphed on that outing, a great stepping stone that brought him back inside the world’s top 1,000. Early 2021 saw him play on the Alps three more times and recorded two runner up finishes and a T6th. While the quality of field is much lower than that of the European Tour, it was a move in the right direction for Manassero as he looked to rebuild his game and confidence.
He currently plays on the Challenge Tour where he finds himself ranked a lowly 74th. But Manassero is a 4 time European Tour winner and there is time for him to reignite his career. Many golfers have slumps but few have fallen as hard as Manassero and fewer still have risen back up again. It would be a great story if we were to once again see the Italian lifting a European Tour trophy.
3. Edoardo Molinari
Our top 3 is made up of Italy’s only three players to have ever competed in the Ryder Cup. While that’s not a deciding factor on who the top three are, it just so happens to be a commonality between the three.
Edoardo is the older brother of Franesco Molinari and, in truth, it was easy to assume that he would be the more successful of the two. While Francesco was consistent and placid, Edoardo had a spark about him. He was a better putter and while his lows would be much worse than brother’s lows, his highs would also be much higher.
The elder Molinari turned pro quite late comparative to his peers, waiting until 2006 when he was 25 and had graduated with a degree in engineering. A difficult year followed and Molinari lost his European Tour card. Though, sometimes one has to take a step backwards to go frwards and that is very true in this case.
He found his groove on the Challenge Tour in 2007, winning twice. Another poor year in 2008 saw him once more lose his European Tour card but he bounced back with a sensational 2009 on the Challenge Tour where he won 3 times, had 4 runner ups and a third place finish. Add into this a victory in Japan at the Dunlop Phoenix Open and you get a player brimming with confidence.
And 2010 proved to be Molinari’s breakout year. He won twice on the European Tour with an additional 2 runner up finishes. He went on such a hot-streak that he forced a Captain’s Pick from Colin Montgomerie for the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. He was paired with his brother for two matches – giving rise to the ingenious chant “There’s only two Molinaris” (the song starts at about 40 seconds and turn the volume down, especially if you are a headphone user!!!) – where they only managed half a point and another half in the singles meant Edoardo’s record read 1 for 3.
Molinari reached a high of 14th in the world but unfortunately that was as good as it would get for the Italian. He slipped down the rankings, even falling outside the world’s top 1000 in 2016 before once more tasting victory in 2017 at the Trophee Hassan II. Since then, Molinari’s results have been disappointing at best. 43 missed cuts in 89 events since the start of the 2018 season have seen him flounder around 500th in the world rankings with only 5 top tens. This year did bring a runner up finish at the Porsche European Open which proves he can still compete.
Aged 40, Molinari still has time to reignite his career and find some of the sparkle of his earlier years. Don’t be surprised if we see Edoardo on the winners podium again.
2. Constantino Rocca
For a long time, Rocca was the standard bearer of Italian golf. He recorded 17 wins throughout his professional career, including 5 on the European Tour. Somewhat of a late bloomer, he didn’t play his first full season on the Tour until 1990 when he was 33 and he didn’t record his first victory there until he was 36. He also found success on the European Senior’s Tour where he won twice in 2007 and finished third on the Order of Merit in that same year.
He had a number of successful years on the European Tour, finishing 6th on the Order of Merit in ’93 and 4th in ’95 and ’96 and in this time rose to a career high of 18th in the world. He played in three Ryder Cups, ’93, ’95 and ’97, claiming 6 points out of 11 matches, the most notable moments being a hole in one at the 1995 Ryder Cup and beating a debuting Tiger Woods 4&2 in their singles match in 1997.
But Rocca is perhaps best known for his exploits in the 1995 Open Championship at St. Andrews. He came onto the famous 18th hole needing a birdie to tie clubhouse leader John Daly and force a playoff. A duffed chip saw his ball trickle into the aptly named “Valley of Sin”. Rocca was left a monstrous 70-foot putt and watched in ecstasy as the ball fell in the dead centre of the cup. An incredibly emotional celebration followed but unfortunately for Rocca, he lost the four-hole playoff.
Regardless of the result though, his putt will live on as one of the greatest moments in Open Championship history.
1. Francesco Molinari
And now we come to the second Molinari brother and the greatest Italian golfer of all-time. A winner of 10 events worldwide with a swing that is so simple and compact it looks like very little can go wrong, Molinari has built up a reputation for his consistency and accuracy. He played his first full year on tour in 2005 and won his maiden tournament in 2006 at his native Telecom Italia Open. An indifferent ’07 season was followed by two runner ups in 2008 and Molinari broke inside the world’s top 100 for the first time.
Molinari continued to rack up strong finishes and top tens and was rewarded in 2010 when he won the WGC-HSBC Champions. More sporadic wins followed in 2012 and 2016 before he hit the form of his life in 2018. In a span of 6 events, he picked up 3 wins and 2 runner ups. 2 of the wins included the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, as well as the Open Championship. In winning the latter, Francesco became the first Italian golfer to win a major championship. It would also prove to be a steppingstone to his highest career ranking of 5th which he achieved later that year.
But Molinari didn’t just set records as a singles player. After two pretty disastrous Ryder Cup campaigns in 2010 and 2012 in which he only managed ½ a point out of three matches on both occasions, Molinari found the special sauce in 2018. He became the first European golfer to ever win all 5 of his matches (European golfers had won 5 points in previous formats but that was after playing 6 matches!) after forming an unbeatable and unlikely pairing with Tommy Fleetwood who would go on to be affectionately known as “Moliwood”.
But the good days did not last for Molinari. In 2020, Francesco only played 7 tournaments due to a back injury and missed the cut in 5 of them. This year, he has missed 7 of 14 cuts as his back continues to plague him. He has only managed 3 top tens between the two seasons and has slipped down as far as 171st in the world. It looks likely that barring an incredible string of events that he will not be playing in this year’s Ryder Cup which is a great shame for a record maker.
Molinari is still only 38 and we hope that he will be able to get back to his best. That is questionable though as back injuries can have serious repercussions. One only has to look at Luke Donald and see how it affected the former world number 1’s game.
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