Francesco Molinari withdraws from U.S. Open, remains uncertain about return

Francesco Molinari withdraws from U.S. Open, remains uncertain about return
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Former Open champ Francesco Molinari remains notably absent from golf’s return from its COVID-19 hiatus, and the Italian might not be back inside the ropes anytime soon.

Molinari is the only player ranked inside the top 50 in the world who has not teed it up since March. His last competitive round was the opener at The Players, while the week prior he withdrew ahead of his title defense at Bay Hill because of a back injury. He hasn’t completed a 72-hole event since February, when he finished T-53 at the WGC-Mexico Championship, and he hasn’t finished four rounds in an event with a 36-hole cut since a T-23 at the Safeway Open almost a year ago.

Molinari announced in July that his family planned to move from London to California, a transition that was expected to keep him out until the PGA Championship. But the 37-year-old withdrew from last month’s event at TPC Harding Park, and this week the USGA announced that he had also withdrawn from the upcoming U.S. Open.

Molinari took to Twitter to share an update, writing in Italian that he has “no physical problems” and is “not changing gear.”

“I see a lot of questions. I didn’t hang up the bag, I took a break to manage life change with my family,” Molinari wrote. “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 reached as high as No. 5 in the world during a torrid 2018 campaign, one that included three wins highlighted by his Open triumph at Carnoustie and ended with him going 5-0 at the Ryder Cup outside Paris. He held the 54-hole lead at the 2019 Masters before losing to Tiger Woods, a result he later admitted took a toll. Molinari hasn’t been the same player since, failing to register a top-10 finish in 18 worldwide starts since leaving Augusta National. After starting the year ranked No. 18, he’s down to 50th in the latest world rankings.

“It will be hard to go back to the levels of 2018, no doubt,” he wrote. “Do not think it was easy the first time.”

Molinari has a five-year Tour exemption thanks to his Open victory that runs through the 2023 season. He shared that he expects to “be back in a while,” but didn’t offer a target date for a competitive return.

“I won’t tell you the exact event because I simply haven’t decided it yet and it will depend on the schedule/preparation,” Molinari wrote. “As soon as I decide when to return you will know too. I hope it will be as soon as possible.”

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