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Magnificent Molinari Grabs Open Title

Francesco Molinari wins the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie (Photo: Getty Images)
After nine holes of the 147th Open Championship the social media world had already anointed Tiger Woods the Champion Golfer of the Year. Francesco Molinari had not.

Playing alongside Woods, the Italian World Number 15 was instead concentrating in grinding out pars – 13 of them in fact – on his way to a not completely unforeseen maiden major victory.

Woods was brilliant over the opening nine holes and walked off the 10th green in what many believed an impossible - and unbeatable -  position: holding the outright lead in a major on the back nine Sunday.

Given his history, it was enough to send Twitter into meltdown as golf fans worldwide convinced themselves Woods would march to a dream 15th major title.

Golf, though, follows no script and things quickly unravelled with a double bogey at 11 and another dropped shot at 12.

As quickly as he had risen Tiger plummeted back down the leaderbord.

For all the drama unfolding around his more high profile playing partner, however, Molinari quietly continued to go about his business.

As thrilling as Woods was on his way to the top of the leaderboard Molinari was equally stoic in maintaining his rhythm and after 11 holes found himself part of a six-way tie for the lead.

Carnoustie was playing firm and fast and for the first time all week a meaningful breeze blew across the course, the conditions proving everything the world’s best could handle – and more.

Overnight co-leader Kevin Kisner got off to a horror start with a double bogey at the second and another dropped shot at the third. In all he gave back six strokes to par over the course of the round though bravely made three birdies as well to ultimately finish in a share of second.

Also starting the final round at 9-under was fellow American Xander Schauffele who, as he did all last year, continued to impress with his play on the biggest stage.

The 2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year had an eventful round as he went to the turn in 40 strokes and seemingly out of the reckoning.

But with the rest of the field struggling as well, two back nine birdies proved huge and when he holed for birdie on 14 took a share of the lead with Molinari at 7-under.

Carnoustie, though, saves its toughest till last and with Molinari in the clubhouse at 8-under already a crucial bogey at 17 ended Schauffele’s chances.

Jordan Spieth was the favourite for most at the start of the day but the poor putting which has plagued much of his season suddenly returned at the most inopportune time and while he fought bravely a 5-over 76 eventually saw him tumble to T9.

English duo Justin Rose and Eddie Pepperell made the final round interesting in different ways, Pepperell posting a 4-under 67 to grab the clubhouse lead at 5-under three hours ahead of the leaders.

That looked for the longest time like it might be enough until Rose eventually bettered the total by one with a brilliant 72nd hole birdie.

It was his fourth of the week at the brutal 18th and capped off a remarkable weekend which saw him shoot 9-under for 36 holes to almost steal the tournament at the last moment.

And then there was Rory McIlroy whose best golf has eluded him for the bulk of the 2018 season.

Flashes of brilliance were enough to get him within four of the lead heading to the final round and that pattern repeated during the day on his way to a T2 result.

He was out in 1-over and still at that same score when he produced the highlight of the day, a bomb for eagle at the par-5 14th which vaulted him to 6-under.

That put him in a share of the lead at the time and while he couldn’t improve on that score on his way to the clubhouse it looked like it might be enough for a play-off.

Molinari, though, had other ideas. His dogged brilliance proved unbeatable, a final hole birdie - just his second of the round – enough to make history.

It put him 8-under and out of reach of the rest of the field, the 35-year-old becoming the first Italian player in history to win a major championship.

Gracious in victory, Molinari thanked first hi family and coaching team before making a point of mentioning those he had done battle with.

“Obviously congratulations to the runners-up,” he said.

“It’s been a tough fight, there can only be one winner unfortunately in golf and this time it’s me.

“But they played great golf and congratulations to them.”

It was Molinari’s third significant victory of 2018 after also winning the BMW PGA Championship in England in May and claiming his first PGA Tour title last month.

 

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