The Open Cham­pi­onship Re­view

Francesco Moli­nari pro­duced a bo­gey-free round un­der the most ex­treme pres­sure to end on eight-un­der, two strokes clear of the field, and be­come the first Ital­ian to win a Ma­jor golf ti­tle at Carnoustie, writes Louie Chan.

HK Golfer - - CONTENTS - By Louie Chan

Francesco Moli­nari be­comes the first Ital­ian to win a Ma­jor golf ti­tle at Carnoustie.

In ten pre­vi­ous ap­pear­ances at the world’s old­est ma­jor, Francesco Moli­nari had missed four cuts and only once has he fin­ished in­side the top 10 - back in 2013. How­ever, few play­ers are in richer form than the 35-year-old Ital­ian, who won his maiden PGA Tour ti­tle by a large eight strokes last month and claimed the big­gest Euro­pean Tour crown of his ca­reer at Went­worth in May.

Those wins have brought riches and ex­pec­ta­tion, but this brings some­thing more valu­able - a place in his na­tion’s sport­ing his­tory.

"I feel dis­be­lief. It is amaz­ing to be here with the Claret Jug,” Moli­nari said, af­ter in­cred­i­bly manag­ing to play 36 holes of week­end golf, on one of the world's most de­mand­ing cour­ses, with­out drop­ping a shot, "to look at the names on the Claret Jug, they are the best in his­tory. For me, to come from Italy, it has been an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney.”

Moli­nari started the day three shots back from lead­ers Jor­dan Spi­eth, Kevin Kisner and Xan­der Schauf­fele and kept his head while all around were los­ing theirs.

Tiger Woods rolled back the years for the sec­ond straight day, pro­duc­ing a swag­ger­ing front nine as he surged to the top of the leader­board. It seemed fate this group would pro­duce the Cham­pion Golfer and so it did, just not the one ex­pected.

Woods's play­ing part­ner Moli­nari kept his head down and main­tained his fo­cus, and he was not in­ter­ested in play­ing a sup­port­ing role. The 14-time Ma­jor cham­pion ul­ti­mately fin­ished three shots back from the Ital­ian, a dou­ble bo­gey at 11 and bo­gey at 12 ul­ti­mately deny­ing those who wanted to write a fairy­tale story.

Moli­nari picked up a birdie on the 14th to put him­self top of the leader­board - which at one point was crowded with six play­ers who

couldn’t be sep­a­rated. How­ever, a bril­liant and nerve­less 18th - a hole that has been the un­do­ing of so many at Carnoustie over the years - sealed his vic­tory, his first birdie there this week. He went to the put­ting green to pre­pare for the play-off, but when Xan­der Schauf­fele, his near­est ri­val, dropped a shot at the 17th, mean­ing he needed an ea­gle, at last, it was all over.

"I could not watch Xan­der play the last two holes, so I went to the put­ting green. I would have been sick," added Moli­nari, "Tiger was great. There are a lot more peo­ple if you are grouped with him than if you are play­ing with some of the other guys. I have done it be­fore, so I knew what was com­ing.

Justin Rose, who needed a birdie at the 18th on Fri­day to make the cut, fin­ished in a tie for sec­ond with Rory McIl­roy, whose charge ig­nited, flick­ered and ul­ti­mately faded. Amer­i­cans Kevin Kisner and Schauf­fele joined them two shots back of Moli­nari.

Then came Woods and Eng­land’s Ed­die Pep­perell, who posted the best round of the day with a 67. Scot­land’s Sam Locke won the Sil­ver Medal for lead­ing am­a­teur.

A view of the 18th hole at Carnoustie

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