Francesco Molinari has been named the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Year for 2018. An obvious choice, surely?

Yes, says Mark Townsend

This will likely have been the quickest decision the panellists have made over the years. By anyone’s standards Molinari’s year was out of this world – to do it having just had three major top 10s since 2007 and having never won a full point before in two previous Ryder Cups is ridiculous.

First up Wentworth, and a pretty nerveless display around the West Course. By the time Carnoustie came around, three weeks after demolishing the field at the Quicken Loans, he was playing the best golf in the world of anyone. Forget all the young thrusting American stars, the slightly overweight Italian was now the one to watch.

And he took down the lot of them.

Come September and France, with others burnt out from their heroics over the course of the season, he won all five and became part of Europe’s best-loved pairing since Seve and Ollie.

We all used to have concerns about Molinari, the swing looked as repeatable as anyone’s in the game but you always wondered about the short putts and the killer instinct. Now he’s ranked higher in the world than Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.

He could have achieved half of what he’s done this year and still come out on top.

No, writes Alex Perry

Francesco Molinari WITB

Now hang on a second, Mark. What about the other half of Moliwood, Tommy Fleetwood? He won four out five points on his Ryder Cup debut and pushed Molinari to the final day of the Race to Dubai. He also won the Abu Dhabi Championship, which is almost as good as winning The Open…

And then there’s Matt Wallace, who many – including a website not a million miles from here – believe should have gone to the Ryder Cup. Wallace won three times on the European Tour last season, more times than anyone else, and finished T19 at the PGA Championship which included a hole-in-one and that new name.

The most obvious contender seems to be Patrick Reed. He played 11 European Tour events in 2018, just one fewer than Molinari, including a T23 at the Scottish Open, T9 at the European Open and T2 at the DP World Tour Championship – and that win at The Masters, of course. It all added up to a 2nd in the Race to Dubai.

And finally, Justin Rose must have been in the mix. He won the FedEx Cup – but that’s the PGA Tour! – and went to World No. 1 for the first (and second, and third) time in his career.

Oh forget it, Molinari is obviously the right choice.

Highlights of Francesco Molinari’s season

First was the BMW PGA Championship win after so many close calls at Wentworth…

Then he crushed the field at the Quicken Loans National for his first PGA Tour victory:

And then the small matter of The Open…

And he STILL had it in him to go 5-0 at the Ryder Cup…

And let’s not forget this moment of magic the morning after…

Here’s what Molinari had to say about being crowned Golfer of the Year:

It is a huge honour. So many great names have earned this honour and I feel very proud to join them.

It is an award that means a lot to me and is a nice way to end a very special year. Winning at Wentworth, in one of our biggest events, gave me a lot of confidence for the summer, but obviously winning The Open at Carnoustie, becoming my country’s first major champion, was incredible.

To then go on to win the Race to Dubai and be part of that European Ryder Cup team in France was amazing. I’ll always look back on this season and be proud of what happened.

Well played, Frankie, thoroughly deserved.