Rose Blooms in Fort Worth as Molinari Denies McIlroy at Wentworth
JUSTIN ROSE and Francesco Molinari capped yet another amazing weekend for European golf with stunning victories on either side of the Atlantic. Rose’s win at the Fort Worth Invitational takes him to third in the world rankings, while for Molinari it was a success that almost certainly secures his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
Huge crowds had flocked into Wentworth expecting to see Rory McIlroy crowned BMW PGA champion for the second timer. Instead, 35-year-old Molinari, of Italy, who finished second in the tournament last year, went one better this time to beat McIlroy by two shots thanks to a final round of 68.
It took Molinari to 17 under par and secured him a cheque for almost one million euros. But for McIlroy and his army of supporters it was another disappointing weekend. The 29-year-old Northern Irishman led the field by three shots after 36 holes and was expected to win comfortably, but he struggled on Saturday, and it was obvious from his opening drive in the final round that things still were not right. He carved his drive way right and in the end did incredibly well to salvage his par.
McIlroy finished two shots back after a birdie-birdie finish and a round of 70, one clear of defending champion Alex Noren and Dane Lucas Bjerregaard.
Bjerregaard cut the gap to three with a wonderful closing 65 that equalled the lowest round of the week and handed him a third consecutive top ten.
The 26-year-old opened his round with a bogey but bounced with a hat-trick of birdies and made four in a row from the 10th before adding another on the 17th.
Molinari has a good record at Wentworth. He had finished in the top 10 at this event in five of the past six seasons and his fifth European Tour victory takes him alongside Costantino Rocca as the most prolific Italian winners in Tour history. He now heads home for the Italian Open - an event he has won twice.
"It's amazing," he said. "I've been close so many times. If I could pick one tournament to win in my career it would be this one so to finally get over the line was amazing. I can't wait to be back next year. I knew it wasn't going to be easy with Rory today, he probably didn't play his best but I still knew he was going to charge back the last few holes.
"I came into this week knowing that I was a long way back in the Ryder Cup and that something pretty special needed to happen. We are halfway there and next week is another important week from that point of view and hopefully another successful week for me."
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Molinari hit a wonderful approach into the third and holed an eight-footer for birdie, with another excellent approach into the par five eighth bringing another birdie.
His iron play had been superb all week and another terrific shot at the eighth set up a further tap-in birdie and saw him lead by three at the turn.
A good up and down from the front of the par five 12th brought a fourth birdie of the day and the lead was four, with Molinari playing a smart, risk-free final six holes to ease to victory.
The front nine was all a bit of a struggle for McIlroy until he holed a 20-footer for birdie at the eighth, but then came successive dropped shots at the ninth and 10th. He birdied the 12th, 17th and 18th but, in truth, was always playing catch-up.
Noren won last year thanks to a sensational final round of 62 and he produced another wonderful display, with birdies at the third, fourth, seventh, tenth and 12th. A bogey on the 13th halted his momentum before he took advantage of the last for a 67.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat made an eagle from long range on the fourth and birdied four of his last six holes in a 67 that moved him to 13 under alongside South African Branden Grace, who recovered from a bogey on the third with birdies on the fifth, 10th, 11th, 14th and 17th.
Grace's countryman Darren Fichardt finished with four birdies to get to 12 under, two shots clear of Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello, English pair Ross Fisher and Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Thai Thongchai Jaidee.
McIlroy tried to find some positives from what was ultimately a disappointing week. "It's close," he said. "It's very close. I've given myself a great chance here this week. I didn't quite pull it off but it's not far away.
"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week but that's not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing - he deserved the win."
JUSTIN ROSE produced one of the best performances of his career to win the Fort Worth Invitational - it was his ninth victory on the PGA Tour and he achieved it in sensational fashion, finishing the week with a closing round of 64 for a 20-under-par winning total at Colonial Country Club. He finished three shots clear of Brooks Koepka, who shot a final round of 63, and it was his fourth win since November.
Rose and Koepka each made eight birdies in the final round and at last one them birdied 10 of the 18 holes. They also birdied the same hole six times. Koepka, who is back on tour after suffering a serious wrist injury, will be delighted that he has recaptured his form so quickly.
It means he is the fourth players from the British Isles to win in 2018, following the successes of Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy, and it means that he has risen to third in the world rankings, with a real chance of finishing the summer as the world number one.
“I am delighted with the way I played,” he said. Rose was forced to miss the BMW PGA Championship to satisfy a new PGA Tour rule that requires players to appear in at least one event in which they have not competed in the past four years. It meant he was playing the course for the first time in eight years.
“I always seem to run into a buzz saw,” said Koepka, for whom this was a sixth runner-up finish. He also finished second to Rose at the WGC-HSBC Champions. “Justin played so well,” he said. “It was impressive to watch.”
Rose, who began the day with a four-stroke lead, recorded six birdies on the front nine and finished the tournament one shot off the record score of 259 set by Zach Johnson back in 2010. He is now tied with Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman. It was an imperious performance. He hit 57 greens in regulation and putted quite brilliantly all week. Rose left himself birdie putts of 20 feet or less on 45 holes, which is an astonishing statistic.
Unsurprisingly, he described it as one of the best ball-striking performances of his career and could even afford to drop a shot at the 72nd hole. It was only his fifth bogey of the week.
“The way I won I think is very fitting for a place that’s called Hogan’s Alley,” Rose said. “I couldn’t have dreamt a better way really. If I begin to look at the courses I’ve won at, this definitely strengthens that group even more. I’m very happy my game has turned up and I’ve been inspired by some of these great venues.”
He is now second in the FedExCup after becoming the fifth player to win twice this season. “When you’re in that rarified air in the FedExCup, you start to think about positioning yourself in the top five for East Lake [for the season-ending Tour Championship],” Rose said. “We all know that’s a big, big deal. It’s a golf course I have played well at in the past.”
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