Why Edoardo Molinari is Team Europe’s Ryder Cup secret weapon

After forging a side business as a performance coach to Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland, DP World Tour star Edoardo Molinari is about to play an even bigger role as Luke Donald’s stat man and most trusted lieutenant at the Ryder Cup in Rome.

It’s just gone 7am in Denmark and Edoardo Molinari’s phone is already pinging with messages from players and caddies. The Italian is a popular guy on tour but a lot of people depend on him now, including those he is about to compete against in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

The 42-year-old is still playing a full season on the DP World Tour, yet he is just as busy assisting Luke Donald for the Ryder Cup as he is earning ‘extra pocket money’ as one of golf’s leading statisticians. His to-do list never seems to get any smaller.

Edoardo Molinari is Team Europe's stats man and vice-captain at the Ryder Cup.

Once finished on the course and in the gym, he’ll spend the evening sifting through more numbers than you’ve got in your phone book. He’ll go through every shot he hit during his round, noting his tendencies and the success of others, which will then shape his on-course strategy tomorrow. He’ll do the same for the Hojgaard twins, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, and anyone else who may require his help or expertise this week.

Molinari has everything to hand on his own data platform, StatisticGolf, which he built during lockdown while everyone else was hitting golf balls into bed sheets suspended on washing lines. With the help of two full-time staff members, the Italian invites users to input as much data as they want in return for a personalized profile of their game.

The goal, he says, is to provide players with actionable insights and trends that go far beyond telling them how many putts they hit yesterday. Instead, it might reveal that they tend to miss a greater proportion of left-to-righters, or that they struggle more on Bermuda greens compared to bentgrass. 

Fitzpatrick was the first to buy into Molinari’s data-driven approach in 2019. He credited it with helping to inform his practice, schedule, and strategy in the build-up to his US Open victory last year.

Edoardo Molinari was part of the triumphant European Ryder Cup team in 2010 at Celtic Manor.

This month Molinari will be providing the same service to all 12 members of the European Ryder Cup team. With just a few clicks of a button, he can tell you which players are best suited for foursomes, which strategy works best on the driveable par 4s at Marco Simone, and why Viktor Hovland’s short game is far better than many will have you believe.

He bristles at the suggestion that he might be Europe’s most trusted lieutenant, but he’s almost certainly Europe’s secret weapon in their quest to win back the Ryder Cup.

We sat down with the Italian to find out more about his burgeoning side business, the role he played in Matt Fitzpatrick’s US Open win, and what the stats really say about possible Ryder Cup pairings.

This year your official role is listed as vice-captain. But you’re so much more than that, right?

I would say I spend a lot of time chatting with Luke. The last few weeks we’ve started talking about possible pairings. The first few parts of my vice-captaincy were trying to get the course set up right, so it hides our team’s weaknesses and exploits our strengths. And we’ve done a very good job with that.

Now we’re looking at which players are a better fit for the course and the foursomes and fourballs. I mean, we’re not only doing the pairings based on stats, but it’s certainly one of the pieces of the puzzle.

Luke Donald has appointed Edoardo Molinari as Europe's stats guru.

Most tour pros go into course design or coaching once they reach a certain age. Why statistical analytics?

Because I’ve always enjoyed doing it for myself. I have an engineering degree but even before that, I was collecting my own stats in a very simple way. A few years ago, Matt Fitzpatrick came to me asking if I could help him. That’s how it all started. I then had to change what I was doing because it was all done in Italian. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for him and for other players. He spoke very highly of me in interviews and then more players followed. That was the big thing.

So it became a lockdown project for you?

Yeah, because during lockdown I had nothing to do. Pretty early on I reached out to (my putting coach) Phil Kenyon and I said, “I’ve got this in mind, would any of your players be interested?” He reached out to a few and a couple of days later I had a good chat with Fitzy. I showed him what I had in mind and he said, “If you do this, I would not only like to subscribe, but I’d like to be an investor.” I was like, “I’m not sure about that part, but you could definitely be my first client.”

When I saw how keen he was, I thought, if I can make this right, he might not be the only player using it. Initially, I thought I might manage 10 players at the most within two years, but I got to 10 players within two and a half months. I had to hire two people working full-time because I just couldn’t do it all by myself. I can’t spend six hours a day writing code now. 

How in-depth do you go? 

In the beginning, it was very simple. It was just fairways and greens hit, where my misses were, the distance of my putts, the breaks on the putts. And then in time I started adding more and more layers. We now factor in wind direction, where the pin is on the green, your intended target or shot shape. You name it, you can enter whatever you want. 

For putting, you have all the breaks, the slopes, the distances, whether you missed the putt because you underread it, overread it, or because of too much speed. We’re starting to get some data from IMG and ShotLink to give players percentages of up and downs to various pins. All of a sudden you can build a plan so you know which pin positions you can take on and where the best places are to miss. 

Off the tee, we can tell them whether it’s better to hit driver, 3-wood or to lay-up, based on historical data for how the hole has played and your own strengths and weaknesses. You can then optimize your strategy on certain holes.

Edoardo Molinari wrote the coding for StatisticGolf, his own data platform.

Is everything detailed in a report?

No, at the moment they get all the information via WhatsApp. We give them different reports with different levels
of information. We have a tournament report and a stretch report, so if a player plays two or three events in a row,
it goes a bit more in-depth about their patterns of play.

We also produce a quarterly report, where we analyze their game over the last three months and identify what they
need to work on ahead of tournaments coming up. Then, at the end of the season, we sit down with the whole team and offer advice on scheduling and what they need to improve during the off-season.

Can amateurs access StatisticGolf too?

“We have an app that can help you practice more efficiently and help you set up a drill on the putting green or
on the range. It gives you results and trends and simple stats about how you’ve been playing.

We’re building a new platform now which will be ready at the end of the year and that will be available to amateurs too. The only difference being that I won’t be producing the reports for them, but they’ll be able to use the exact same system as Fitzpatrick, Hovland and other top players.

Edoardo Molinari won his last DP World Tour title at the 2017 Trophee Hassan II.

Stat tracking has only really come to the fore in the last few years. How quickly did you see the benefits in your game?

I saw it pretty quickly to be honest. I thought, if I can understand my game a little bit better and find out where I’m gaining shots and losing shots, I could practice more efficiently. Because I was in college, I didn’t have all the time in the world to practice everything. I had to have a plan when I went to the golf course.

I realized pretty soon that it’s almost impossible as a player to understand exactly where you’re losing shots, where you’re gaining shots and what you’re doing well and not so well. I’ve seen this with a number of players. Sometimes they change a driver because they think the new one is better. But then when you crunch the numbers, you see that the old one was gaining you 0.3 shots more per round. That might not sound like much, but that could be the difference between a top 50 player in the world and someone just keeping their card.

Edoardo Molinari works closely with Viktor Hovland.

How many players have bought into what you’re doing now?

Viktor Hovland has been using StatisticGolf for the last couple of years. Matt Fitzpatrick obviously, and there are a few who don’t want to be named. I’ve got seven players inside the top 50 and another six or seven inside the top 100. It’s very humbling how every week someone is reaching out from the European Tour and PGA Tour, interested in what I’m doing.

Can you claim an assist then for Matt Fitzpatrick’s victory at the US Open? 

I don’t want to make big claims, but I’ve spent a lot of time with Fitzy since joining his team. I remember early on when I started working for him, he was struggling with back-left pins. He went away, spent a lot of time on the range, and a few weeks later he finished third at Memorial. The pin was back-left on 18 and on 16. I had a message from him saying, “You’re a genius, I birdied 18.”

Going back to the US Open, a couple of months ago I went through some numbers to see how much players have improved after 12 months of working with me. Across 25 or so players, it worked out as a shot per week. Again, that doesn’t sound like a lot but when someone wins the US Open by one, it can be huge. I like to think I am helping a little bit.

For the last three Ryder Cups, each European captain has used the Twenty First Group’s 15th Club for their statistical analysis and data crunching. Have you replaced them?

Yeah, that’s part of my vice-captaincy role. It’s my job to provide all the data for before, during and after the matches. I will be doing it, but I’ll have my team as well to help with that. We did a trial at the Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi for both teams and I felt like it went down really well.

Luke Donald told us that you were key to the decision to opt for six captain’s picks. Why did you push so hard for it?

There are a number of reasons. The more picks you have, the more flexibility you have in choosing the players you need. If you have fewer picks and more automatic spots, you might find yourself with a player who played very well in the beginning of the qualifying period and then played very poorly in the last three months. This way it will make sure that the team will be on top form.

Ludvig Aberg is part of Team Europe for the 2023 Ryder Cup

A lot of people are talking about Ludvig Aberg right now. Is he the sort of player who has been quite hard to track because you don’t have much data on him as an amateur?

No, we did cover his amateur career, funnily enough. We have data on him. I requested to play with him for the first two days in Dubai because I was seeing his results as an amateur and thought he must be special. I was extremely impressed. 

Off the tee, he’s as good as anyone I’ve ever seen anywhere. He’s still very young and has only just turned pro, but he’s a fantastic player. 

On paper, the Americans look like the big favorites to retain the Ryder Cup. What do the stats say? 

I will say it’s going to be much closer than most people think. When they came to Paris, on paper they were the best team America had ever had up until that point, and they got beat pretty hard. A lot of players from our side are also coming into form. Look at Tommy Fleetwood. Every week he seems to finish in the top five on the PGA Tour. I would say, looking at the big picture of our team, it’s looking very good.

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About the author

Today's Golfer features editor Michael Catling.

Michael Catling
Today’s Golfer Features Editor

Michael Catling is Today’s Golfer‘s Features Editor and an award-winning journalist who specializes in golf’s Majors and Tours, including DP World, PGA, LPGA, and LIV.

Michael joined Today’s Golfer in 2016 and has traveled the world to attend the game’s biggest events and secure exclusive interviews with dozens of Major champions, including Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Gary Player, and Justin Thomas.

A former member of Ufford Park and Burghley Park, Michael has been playing golf since he was 11 and currently plays off a handicap of 10.

Away from golf he’s a keen amateur chef and has his own healthy recipes website. He also loves playing squash, going to the gym, and following Chelsea FC.

Michael uses a Ping G driverPing G 3-woodPing G Crossover 3-ironPing G Series irons (4-PW), Ping Glide wedges (52º, 56º, 60º), TaylorMade MySpider Tour Putter, and Srixon AD333 golf ball.

Get in touch with Michael via email and follow him on Twitter.

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