Molinari first Italian to claim major title

Italy’s Francesco Molinari cemented his status as the hottest golfer in the world with an emphatic two-shot victory on Sunday at the 147th Open Championship at windswept Carnoustie Golf Club in Scotland.

Molinari, who won the European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in England in late May and the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour in early July in suburban Washington D.C. fired a 2-under-par 69 in the final round to finish at 8 under.

Molinari’s win was the first in the Open for a golfer from Italy and ended a streak of five straight major championships won by Americans.

“What a week,” Molinari said after being handed the Claret Jug. “Obviously, it’s incredible to stand here between all these people.”

“Congratulations to the runners-up. It’s been a tough fight — there’s only one winner, unfortunately, in golf. This time it’s me, but they played great golf and congratulations to them.”

Xander Schauffele, who began the day tied for the lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, endured an up-and-down round but was tied for the lead at the 17th. A bogey on that demanding hole ended his round of 74 and dropped him into tie for second at 6 under with England’s Justin Rose (who shot a 69 on Sunday), Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (70), and Kisner (74).

“I guess it’s been grateful to be on the golf course,” Rose told NBC when asked what changed over the weekend after making the cut on the number. “The alternative was I was back home and ruing another Open Championship slipped away. I think just teeing off at 9:35 Saturday morning, I was just grateful to be out there and obviously be in some decent weather to be in position to put together a good round.”

England’s Eddie Pepperell (67), 14-time major champion Tiger Woods (71), and Kevin Chappell (73) finished tied for sixth at 5 under, with Tony Finau (71), Matt Kuchar (72) and defending champion Spieth (who was without a birdie on the round while shooting 76) tied for ninth another stroke in arrears.

The course and windy conditions took its took on the field, with the leaders faltering and coming back to the pack and those chasing having little success.

Molinari assumed the lead at 7 under on the 14th hole with a two-putt birdie, and Schauffele tied him with a like birdie two groups hence. The two players missed chances to take the lead for good but missed short putts on the 17th and 16th holes, respectively, before the Italian grabbed a one-shot advantage with a seven-foot birdie putt on the closing hole.

“The way that Francesco played today was beautiful,” said Woods. “He hit a lot of beautiful little pitches up there to basically kick-ins.”

At one time on the back nine, after McIlroy eagled the par-5 14th hole, there were six players tied for the lead at 6 under, three shots worse than where Spieth, Schauffele and Kisner began the round after leading at the 54-hole mark.

By that point Woods, who led at 7 under with a steady beginning as all those around and behind him (aside from Molinari) were faltering, had dropped out of the lead pack and all the way to a tie for ninth after a double bogey at 11 and a bogey at the 12th hole.

“I made a few mistakes there,” Tiger said when asked what happened after he held the lead at 7-under. “I figured today, starting out the day, that nine (under) was probably going to be the number. There were three guys at 9. I saw that Jason (Day) played a great round today, I saw that Brooksie (Brooks Koepka) played a really solid round today … I figured that one of those three (leaders) were going to shoot even par or under par today and I was going to have to go get that number.”

“Didn’t do it.”

Rose, who had to birdie the 18th hole in the second round to even make the cut, backed up that round with a 64 on Saturday that put him into position to make a move into the leaders. His 69 in the final round featured a bogey on the fifth, an eagle on the par-5 14th and a closing birdie on the final hole to push him to 6 under. Rose birdied the 18th all four rounds.

“Today was an interesting day,” said Rose. “I didn’t really feel in it on the front nine, I saw guys were hanging in there. Leaders were off to solid starts the first couple of holes, then all of a sudden something happened and they dropped a bunch of shots and then I knew it was game on from that point.”

Of the eight Opens that have been held at Carnoustie, only one of the 24 players that have either held or owned the lead outright after the third round have gone on to win the title, Ben Hogan in 1953.

–Field Level Media

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