Open champion Francesco Molinari admits it is “weird” to be the new hero of Italian golf after receiving a message of congratulations from his own idol Costantino Rocca.
Rocca was the country’s most successful player, but the closest he came to the Claret Jug was losing a play-off to John Daly at St Andrews, having famously holed a 60-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
Rocca also beat Tiger Woods in the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama and Molinari coincidentally played alongside Woods in the final round at Carnoustie, where a flawless closing 69 saw him become the first Italian winner of a major title.
“It feels weird,” said Molinari, who has now recorded three wins and two runners-up finishes in his last six events.
“Costantinto still is and will always be my hero and my idol.
“His text last night was probably one of the most special ones.
"He came so close to winning this that it’s for him as well.
"He told me congratulations and how pleased he was for me. He knows how hard I’ve been working to get here so I think he felt the same proudness that I felt yesterday.”
Molinari revealed that the treasured Claret Jug had spent the night on his bedside table, although he did not get much sleep as he celebrated his first major title.
“It wasn’t too wild, there was a lot of joy from everyone, but a lot of tiredness as well after a long week,” the 35-year-old told Sky Sports News.
“But it was great to have a few close friends and my wife having a few drinks and telling a few stories about the week.
“It’s not a nice feeling when I don’t see the Claret Jug. I want to know where it is so I try to hold on to it as long as possible.
“Looking at the list of names on the trophy, the people who won here in Carnoustie, it’s just an incredible achievement, especially when I think where I started in Italy, not really tonnes of golfers there so to come all the way to this really means a lot.”