Francesco Molinari gets job done to give Italy first Major win

As challengers rose and fell, the Italian’s coolness under pressure secured the Claret Jug

Italy’s Francesco Molinari  celebrates after making a birdie on the 18th hole  during the final round of the British  Open  at Carnoustie. Photograph:  Harry How/Getty Images

Italy’s Francesco Molinari celebrates after making a birdie on the 18th hole during the final round of the British Open at Carnoustie. Photograph: Harry How/Getty Images

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An Italian job of sorts, just like in the movies; and, for sure, as all around him some extraordinary and at times bizarre deeds were performed by other characters in the drama, Francesco Molinari’s coolness in the heat of battle – displaying an assassin’s clinical intent – enabled him to lift the Claret Jug as the champion of this 147th British Open over a links finally allowed to bare its teeth by the arrival of a stiff wind for the final round.

On a leaderboard that resembled the edginess of a securities market trading grid, with peaks and troughs, Molinari – who’d started out three shots adrift of a trio of 54-hole leaders – produced a stunning performance of precision play, recording a bogey-free 69 for 276, eight under par, that ultimately gave him a two- stroke winning margin over the quartet of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

In the rich history of this oldest of championships, the fluctuations of the final round were still something to behold as one player after another sought to reach out to claim the old jug. At one point, barely believably, Tiger Woods – just like old times – held the sole possession of the lead only for the 14-time Major winner to falter over the homeward run.

The list of potential winners was as if confetti had been scattered in the wind around the links. The names featured the old and the new. Woods. Spieth. McIlroy. Kisner. Schauffele. Chappell. From nowhere came the names of Rose, and even Pepperell. There were tales of gorse bushes. Of duffed chips. Of monster putts. Of approach shots hitting flagsticks. Anything and everything, if it must be known.

Italy’s Francesco Molinari holds the Claret Jug during the presentation ceremony for the british Open at Carnoustie. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire
Italy’s Francesco Molinari holds the Claret Jug during the presentation ceremony for the british Open at Carnoustie. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

When McIlroy three-putted the fifth hole for a bogey, he slipped six shots behind the leaders of that time, who were Spieth and Schauffele. “He’s a choker,” said a spectator standing on the hillock greenside. “He always chokes,” replied his friend. They were wrong. And McIlroy was one of those who stood tall and strong in chasing his goal, energised late-on by a wonderful eagle on the Par-5 14th – where he sank a 40-footer – to jump into a share of the lead.

McIlroy’s final round 70 for 278, six under par, gave the 29-year-old Northern Irishman a four-way share of runners-up: it constituted his best finish in a Major championship since he lifted the Wanamaker Trophy for a second time with his win in Valhalla in 2014. Yet, for a time, it seemed as if that quest for a fifth career Major win was on the cards but a run of par-par-par-par over the final four holes saw him come up short.

With the wind finally allowing the links to ask tougher questions, players were undone in different ways. For Spieth, it was a double-bogey at the Par-5 sixth as “Hogan’s Alley” put him into a cul-de-sac. A loose shot into gorse stung. For Kisner, it was a double-bogey as early as the second when he left an attempted recovery from a bunker in the trap and the ball finished in his footprint. For Schauffele, it was double bogey on the seventh where he topped his second shot in the rough.

And, for Woods, a double-bogey on the 11th – at a time when he has manoeuvred into a leading position – was his undoing. With his tee shot finishing in rough, Woods’s approach spelt trouble from the time he hit the shot. He let the club drop, and then watched as the ball pulled wickedly left, hitting a spectator on the head, and ricocheting into the taller seagrass rough. One shot followed another and he was left signing for a six.

Rory McIlroy looks to the sky after finishing his final round at the British Open at Carnoustie. Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Rory McIlroy looks to the sky after finishing his final round at the British Open at Carnoustie. Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

Through it all, Molinari remained unflustered. He was calm and cool and oh so collected. Molinari was the only player in the entire field to go bogey-free. With the precision of a surgeon performing a triple bypass, he threaded his way safely through one procedure after another. His shot-making was pure and when he got into trouble he performed his own rescue operations.

A round of 13 straight pars – Faldo-esque in so many ways – was finally taken off its flat-lining with a birdie on the Par-5 14th, only to be followed by further pars at the 15th and another at the 16th and another at the 17th. Then, the coup de grace: on the 18th, the Italian ensured he would become the first from his country to win a Major title with a fine approach shot to four feet and he rolled in the putt for a 69. It wasn’t the best score of the day, but it was the best round, a winner’s round.

Tiger Woods follows his ball on the 10th hole during the final round of the British Open at Carnoustie. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire
Tiger Woods follows his ball on the 10th hole during the final round of the British Open at Carnoustie. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

On retreating to the recorder’s cabin, signing his card, and then waiting and watching on television as those behind sought to catch him, Molinari finally lost his calm. The eyes welled up with tears. But the mission of those playing catch-up was to prove a futile one. Schauffele got closest.

The American was one behind Molinari playing the 17th but got out of position with an approach shot that narrowly missed a gorse bush. He played a good shot to 15 feet, but missed the par putt. And that bogey meant that Schauffele needed to hole out with his second shot to the 18th. He didn’t, and Molinari – by then out on the practice putting green – listened for a roar that never came and it was then he knew victory was his.

FINAL SCORES
(British and Irish unless stated, par 71, (a) denotes amateur)

276 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 70 72 65 69

278 Rory McIlroy 69 69 70 70, Xander Schauffele (USA) 71 66 67 74, Justin Rose 72 73 64 69, Kevin Kisner (USA) 66 70 68 74

279 Tiger Woods (USA) 71 71 66 71, Eddie Pepperell 71 70 71 67, Kevin Chappell (USA) 70 69 67 73

280 Tony Finau (USA) 67 71 71 71, Matt Kuchar (USA) 70 68 70 72, Jordan Spieth (USA) 72 67 65 76

281 Tommy Fleetwood 72 65 71 73, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 70 70 70 71, Patrick Cantlay (USA) 70 71 70 70, Webb Simpson (USA) 70 71 67 73, Ryan Moore (USA) 68 73 69 71

282 Jason Day (Aus) 71 71 72 68, Charley Hoffman (USA) 71 70 68 73, Pat Perez (USA) 69 68 74 71, Alex Noren (Swe) 70 71 67 74, Zach Johnson (USA) 69 67 72 74, Adam Scott (Aus) 71 70 68 73, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa) 67 71 71 73

283 Bernhard Langer (Ger) 73 71 68 71, Phil Mickelson (USA) 73 69 70 71, Danny Willett 69 71 70 73, Stewart Cink (USA) 72 70 71 70

284 Chris Wood 70 74 66 74, Julian Suri (USA) 74 69 70 71, Austin Cook (USA) 72 70 67 75, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 72 70 69 73, Rickie Fowler (USA) 70 69 73 72, Patrick Reed (USA) 75 70 68 71, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 70 73 70 71

285 Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn) 72 71 68 74, Michael Kim (USA) 73 69 69 74, Adam Hadwin (Can) 73 70 71 71, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 75 71 69

286 Luke List (USA) 70 70 77 69, Kyle Stanley (USA) 72 69 69 76, Ross Fisher 75 70 68 73, Ryan Fox (Nzl) 74 71 71 70, Cameron Davis (Aus) 71 72 73 70, Brooks Koepka (USA) 72 69 75 70, Haotong Li (Chn) 71 72 67 76, Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn) 77 67 71 71

287 Brendan Steele (USA) 68 76 73 70, Tom Lewis 75 70 68 74, Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn) 71 74 65 77, Sean Crocker (USA) 71 71 69 76

288 Jason Dufner (USA) 75 70 68 75, Byeong-Hun An (Kor) 73 71 66 78, Kevin Na (USA) 70 73 73 72, Shubhankar Sharma (Ind) 73 71 71 73, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 73 69 69 77, Yuta Ikeda (Jpn) 70 73 71 74, Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 75 70 73 70, Tyrrell Hatton 74 71 72 71, Paul Casey 73 71 72 72

289 Marc Leishman (Aus) 72 72 69 76

290 Marcus Kinhult (Swe) 74 69 71 76, Brett Rumford (Aus) 74 70 72 74, Shaun Norris (Rsa) 74 68 69 79, Brandon Stone (Rsa) 68 72 73 77, Gavin Green (Mal) 72 73 71 74, Lee Westwood 72 72 69 77

291 Sung Kang (Kor) 69 72 72 78, Paul Dunne 71 73 73 74, Rhys Enoch 74 71 70 76, Gary Woodland (USA) 71 72 72 76, Zander Lombard (Rsa) 67 71 71 82, Matthew Southgate 69 72 73 77, Si Woo Kim (Kor) 71 72 75 73

292 Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 74 70 76 72

293 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 74 71 74 74, Beau Hossler (USA) 73 70 77 73, Sam Locke (a) 72 73 70 78

294 Cameron Smith (Aus) 73 71 73 77

295 Keegan Bradley (USA) 74 71 73 77

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