Magnificent Molinari Completes Italian Job to Make History at Carnoustie

By: | Sun 22 Jul 2018 | Comments


FRANCESCO MOLINARI made history at Carnoustie when he became the first Italian to win The Open Championship on a thrilling day that saw many of the leading contenders’ hopes being blown away as the course finally bore its teeth.

The crowd were thrilled by the sight of Tiger Woods briefly leading the field and Rory McIlroy rolling in an eagle putt on the 14th to revive his challenge. The Northern Irishman, looking for his first major victory since 2014, eventually finished second and was the only player in the field to break par on all four days - a remarkable performance when it is remembered how many short putts he missed.

But the day belonged to Molinari, who was winning for the third time since the end of May when he claimed the BMW PGA Championship and then crossed the Atlantic to secure his first PGA Tour success. He played beautifully for four days and closed the tournament with a 69 to finish on eight under par and win the Claret Jug by two shots from McIlroy, Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

After three days during which the world’s finest golfers had been making birdies and eagles for fun, this was the day that Carnoustie got its own back. The sun was still beating down but there was a strong wind blowing across the links and, one by one, the leaders came to grief. Kisner, Jordan Spieth and Scahuffele, who began the final round on nine under par, found the conditions especially difficult, with bogeys and double-bogeys now the order of the day.

Spieth took 39 shots to cover the front nine, Schauffele and Kisner required 40. It meant that a whole host of players who had no right to expect to be in the mix suddenly found themselves with a real chance to win the biggest prize in golf.

And after 10 holes it seemed that time had stood still for there at the top of the leaderboard was the name Woods. While all around him were dropping shots like confetti, Woods had pick up two birdies and was on seven under par, one ahead of the chasing pack.

Cheers went up all around the links but it was too good to be true. He dropped two shots at the 11th and another went at the 12th. He was back to four under par. But a birdie at the 14th gave him renewed hope. He would par his way in for a 71 and eventually finished sixth, proof that that elusive 15th major may well still be with his grasp.

There was a logjam at the head of affairs.McIlroy was seemingly out of it after three-putting the 12th but two holes later he drained a 40-foot putt for an eagle at the par five and moved to six under, where he found himself tied with Jordan Spieth, Francesco Molinari, Xander Schauffele, Kevin Kisner and Kevin Chappell. 

Playing with Woods, Molinari produced a performance that was reminscent of Nick Faldo when he won with 18 pars at Muirfield in 1987. The Italian, who supposedly possesses a dodgy putting stroke, has been in the form of his life recently and he was holing for fun as he parred the first 13 holes. He finally broke the sequence with a birdie at the 14th and, at seven under par, led The Open by a shot.

There was also a late move by Rose. The Englishman nearly holed his second at the 14th and then tapped in for an eagle. He followed it with a birdie at the 18th for the fourth successive day and signed for a 69 that gave him the clubhouse lead at six under - 278. He could now only wait and see if he had done enough.

McIlroy parred in and closed the championship with a 70 to join Rose in the clubhouse at six under.

Schauffele, putting his early woes behind him, had birdied the 10th to get back to six under and when he became the latest to pick up a stroke at the 14th he found himself sharing the lead with Molinari, with both men on seven under. A playoff was looking like the most probable outcome.

Chappell, Kisner and Spieth were still snapping at their heels on six under in what was boiling up to be the most thrilling climax to The Open in living memory.

But Molinari wasn’t finished yet and he brought the house down with a birdie at the final hole for a round of 69 and a total of 276. And with Schauffele dropping a shot at the 17th, it mean that the American had to hole his approach to the last to force a playoff.

Spieth’s challenge had ended with dropped shots at the 15th and 17th holes.

Earlier, Eddie Pepperell shot a 67 to set a five-under-par target and later admitted that because he thought he was out of the tournament he had gone out for a few drinks on Saturday night and was not feeling at his best. As he surveyed the leaderboard he said: “I bet Tiger Woods didn’t go for a drink after he finished his third round.”

The Silver Medal awarded to the leading amateur went to Scotland’s Sam Locke, who finished on 293 after a week he will remember for the rest of his life.

To give some idea of how much conditions had changed, on Saturday 31 players broke 70; in the final round, just six managed to do so. And Zander Lombard, of South Africa, who began the day on four under, trudged off the final green and signed for an 82 that featured three double-bogeys on the back nine.


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