Golf-Rocca cried when Molinaris made Ryder Cup team

Reuters

Fri, 17 Sep 11:53:00 2010

It is perhaps no surprise to discover Costantino Rocca wept with joy last month when compatriot Edoardo Molinari clinched a place alongside his brother Francesco in Europe's Ryder Cup team.

Rocca, the only Italian to have played in the biennial team event, sparked one of golf's most tear-jerking moments on the 18th green at St Andrews in the 1995 British Open.

He took part in the Ryder Cup in 1993, 1995 and 1997 but there have been times when the burly Bergamo beefcake must have wondered if he would be the first and last golfer from his country to enjoy the honour of playing in the competition.

"When I knew the Molinari brothers had both qualified for the team I cried because I was so happy," Rocca told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"I'm not jealous, I'm never jealous of anyone. But these two guys made everyone happy in Italy and I'm very pleased."

Francesco had already sealed an automatic spot in Europe's 12-man team when Edoardo won last month's Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland.

That victory persuaded Europe captain Colin Montgomerie to make him one of three wildcard picks for the Oct. 1-3 showdown with the United States at Celtic Manor in Wales.

Rocca cried like a baby as he sank to his knees and pounded the turf with his fists after holing a 60-foot putt to set up a British Open playoff with eventual winner John Daly at the 'home of golf' 15 years ago.

TEAR-JERKER

The 53-year-old Rocca, who now competes on the European Seniors Tour, also broke down at the opening ceremony ahead of his Ryder Cup debut at the Belfry in England in 1993.

"The first time I played in it and I heard the Italian anthem and the flag raised, I cried," said Rocca.

"I was sitting next to (team mate) Jose Maria Olazabal and he took my hand. That was very nice. It is a moment you cannot believe but I had to believe it at that moment.

"For me the Ryder Cup is the best tournament in the world and I think the emotion will also come through for the Molinaris."

Rocca, who beat Tiger Woods 4&2 in the singles at Valderrama in Spain in 1997, said the two brothers caught his eye before they joined the professional ranks.

"When I saw them play as amateurs they played like professionals," said the five-times European Tour winner. "That is the difference between them and the other Italians.

"They were always thinking like a pro, thinking strong. Compared to the other good players we have had maybe these two brothers have that special charisma," added Rocca, who will be at Celtic Manor to cheer on the Molinaris next month.

"We have a lot of good players but you need to work hard to reach the top. These two are mentally strong and they have worked hard."

RYDER FUTURE

Rocca said Francesco, 27, was the steadier of the two brothers who joined forces to win the World Cup last year.

"Francesco is so consistent," he said. "If he misses a fairway it's a surprise.

"The big problem he has is the same problem I have -- he doesn't think enough that he can do it with the putter.

"To play better with the putter he has to change his mentality, be more positive. If you see Francesco putting on the practice green he is fantastic but on the course he becomes very tense, like me."

Rocca said Edoardo, 29, had more shot-making skills than his younger brother.

"He is more inventive. I can't compare him with Seve (Ballesteros) because Seve missed every fairway with his driver," Rocca joked.

"Edoardo can miss the fairway sometimes but he is very positive with his short game."

The Molinari brothers have described Rocca as their Ryder Cup inspiration and the veteran wants them to be fixtures in the European team for years to come.

"Italy is a small golfing country," said Rocca. "If these two guys watched me and arrived where they have arrived it's because they really wanted to copy me and reach the top.

"It's positive for golf in Italy and nice for me. I want them to play the Ryder Cup for five years, not just for one year."

 

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