Olesen Breaks Molinari's Heart by Completing Italian Job

By: | Mon 04 Jun 2018 | Comments


DENMARK’S Thorbjorn Olesen became the most unpopular man in Italy when he held off local hero Francesco Molinari to win the Italian Open by a single shot at Garadagolf Country Club in Brescia.

Molinari, a two-time winner of his national title, was denied a third triumph just seven days after defeating Rory McIlroy at Wentworth to secure the BMW PGA Championship. But he came within a whisker of creating his own little piece of golfing history and will now head to Shinnecock Hills for the US Open knowing that he has secured his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team to face the United States in France at the end of September.

Olesen had endured a pretty miserable time of it this season but will leave Italy one million euros richer after winning this latest Rolex Series event and he is safely back in the world’s top 100 after coming out on top at the end of a thrilling day, when he saw off the challenges of Molinari and 54-hole leader Lee Slattery, of England. It was also a big day for Slattery, whose final round of 67 gave him the biggest payday of his long career and secured his playing privileges for 2018.

Needing a par at the last after Molinari had sent a huge home crowd wild by holing a 30-foot putt for birdie, Olesen appeared to be in trouble after hitting drive way left. But he found a lie, made a superb up and down from a green side bunker and signed for a final round of 64 and a winning total of 262, 22 under par.

Molinari finished second, with Slattery a further shot adrift in their place.

Olesen had only managed one top-10 finish all season but after securing his fifth European Tour title he said:  “Its unbelievable. Obviously it has been a little bit of a tough time for me this year. To come into this Rolex Series and to do what I've done is amazing, especially to come from behind and win. I haven't done that in my career so far, so that was very special.

"It was nice to hole that putt on the last and to get that feeling of holing it when it really matters. This is exactly what I needed. Well, it's always what we need but right now for me it's great.”

One behind Slattery at the start of the day, Olesen opened with a birdie, with Molinari in the group ahead also holing from 10 feet on the same hole. The Dane also birdied the fifth and seventh holes to keep himself in contention heading into there back nine.

He took the lead after birdies at the 12th and a kick-in birdie at the 13th, but Molinari refused to bow to him moving to within a shot after a birdie of his own at the 14th, where he holed a 20-footer.

Slattery's challenge appeared to be over when he bogeyed the 14th and when Molinari recorded a birdie at the par-five 15th he was level with Olesen.

Olesen drove into trees at the 15th and had to lay up with his third to 20 feet, while Slattery found the front of the green in two. The 39-year-old Englishman then holed his eagle putt to reduce the margin to one, but a determined Olesen then holed his own birdie putt. It was thrilling stuff.

Molinari birdied the 16th from 20 feet but gave the shot back at the next after finishing in a greenside bunker, and when Olesen birdied the 17th hole from eight feet it sent him two clear with one to play.

A wayward drive threw the result into doubt and when Molinari rolled in a 30 footer to huge roars from the crowd for a closing 65 a play-off looked likely, but Olesen was not to be denied.

Slattery signed for a 67, with Rafa Cabrera Bello's 66 enough for fourth on 18 under. Ryder Cup vice-captains Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell gave Thomas Bjorn something to think about with rounds of 63 and 64 respectively to share fifth with Andy Sullivan.

PGA TOUR

YOU CAN say what you like about Bryson DeChambeau - and many people have - but the boy can play golf. And he proved it once again by holding off a world-class field to win the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, also known as “Jack’s Place”.

For golfer preparing for the US Open, which takes place at Shinnecock Hills next week, the course that Jack Nicklaus built is a terrific test. Going into the final round, the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose were all looming, but DeChambeau, the 54-hole leader, held them all off to secure his second PGA Tour title in some style.

McIlroy was always playing catch-up after a miserable opening round of 74, and the 64 he shot on Saturday gave him some hope but it was always going to be an outside chance. He needed a fast start and he got it with birdies at the third, fifth, sixth and seventh holes. There was also a dropped shot at the fourth, and he reached turn in 33. But he then went seven holes before his next birdie, at the par-five 15th. It took him to 12 under for the week, but he was still five adrift of DeChambeau. And he dropped a shot at the 17th to finish the tournament on 11 under par, tied for eighth place alongside a group of players who included Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas.

Rose, winner of the Fort Worth Invitational, seven days earlier, continued his fine form in Ohio and when he birdied the second and third holes it looked like he might be ready to make a challenge. But he parred the next six holes and then dropped a shot at the 10th, which effectively ended his chances. He birdied the 15th and, like so many others, had a bogey at the 17th. It all added up to a round of 70. At 12 under par, he finished tied sixth.

Woods thrilled the crowds in rounds two and three but, sadly, the magic had disappeared in the final round and a 72 left him on nine under par in a tie for 23rd place.

With three birdies and nine pars in his opening 12 holes, DeChambeau appeared to be cruising to the title, but then he wobbled. A shot went at the 14th and, crucially, another at the 18th when he three-putted - a par would have won it for him, but he finished 72 holes tied on 15 under par with Ben An and Kyle Stanley, who closed out with rounds of 69 and 70 respectively. Stanley made his move with four late birdies. An, a former winner of the BMW PGA Championship, was the only player in the field to break 70 in all four rounds.

DeChambeau, An and Stanley headed back to the 18th to begin the playoff, with Stanley being eliminated after dropping a shot. DeChambeau and An returned to the tee and this time the American birdied the hole after sinking an eight-foot putt.

"I can't believe I did it," said DeChambeau, who moved to No. 4 in the FedExCup standings.

Patrick Cantlay also had a chance, leading by two shots going to the back nine. But he didn't make a birdie over his last 10 holes, and he fell back when he went bunker-to-bunker on the 17th and made bogey to fall two strokes behind. Cantlay narrowly missed a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole, shot 71 and finished fourth. Peter Uihlein (66) was alone in fifth.

Joaquin Niemann, the 19-year-old from Chile, birdied the 18th hole to tie for sixth. That was enough for him to earn special temporary membership on the PGA TOUR, meaning he can get unlimited sponsor exemptions.

Woods struggled with the putter all week. "If I just putt normally, I probably would be right there with those guys and up there in the last couple of groups," Woods said. "If I just keep building on this, with how I'm hitting it right now, I'm in good shape for two weeks from now.”


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