On one of the hard­est cour­ses Francesco Molinari has his own and Italy’s maiden Ma­jor win.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The 147th Open Cham­pi­onship was played at the bleak, brown and un­com­pro­mis­ing course at Cournoustie in An­gus, Scotland. A short train ride from Dundee and Ed­in­burgh this is a dan­ger­ous course that takes no pris­on­ers. The Driver was go­ing to be a rar­ity, es­pe­cially on the first hole.

The usual bunch of pro­fes­sion­als had ar­rived, and the field was en­hanced by the in­clu­sions of Michael Hendry and Ryan Fox who qual­i­fied late in the an­nual process. It was go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing to watch Fox off the 1st Tee. Driver or Iron?

The Eng­lish field in­cluded the blos­som­ing Tommy Fleet­wood who went on to record -3 to fin­ish his 4 rounds in tied 12th. This player is show­ing signs of be­ing very good in­deed. The player we thought that would carry the day(s) was Jor­dan Spi­eth but even he slipped when it mat­tered as did Tiger Woods.

Tommy Fleet­wood, who pro­duced the first birdie for the gallery at the am­phithe­atre-like 1st green on the fi­nal day, reached six un­der but sadly for him that was as good as it got. A three-putt bo­gey at the 5th, out of bounds with his sec­ond shot at the 6th for a dou­ble bo­gey, which he fol­lowed up with an­other dropped shot at the 7th, saw him turn in three over and his race ef­fec­tively run. “It got away from me,” he said. “I don’t want to be a bit of a baby about it but I’m ob­vi­ously dis­ap­pointed. It just wasn’t my time.”

As rather sums up re­cent times of Tiger Woods, he was to wob­ble on the clos­ing stretch on mov­ing day. A bo­gey at the 16th af­ter a missed green at the par three meant he had to set­tle for a 66. This, how­ever, was his best ma­jor round since 2011. It was his low­est in the Open since the sec­ond round at Hoy­lake 12 years ago where he won at Mersey­side; from within touch­ing dis­tance of the lead, he has a chance to repli­cate that tri­umph here. An out­ra­geous piece of for­tune at the 18th, when Woods’s ball seemed to be­have con­trary to grav­ity by bounc­ing away from rather than into the Barry Burn, sug­gested the golf­ing gods were on his side.

Spi­eth started the fi­nal day at nine un­der, in a three-way tie with two men who had never won a ma­jor be­fore, Kevin Kis­ner and Xan­der Schauf­fele. He was the favourite, then, and set to be­come the first man un­der 25 to win two Open cham­pi­onships back-to-back since young Tom Mor­ris did it back in the 19th cen­tury.

Spi­eth has a volatile streak in him. He just does a very good im­pres­sion of a man who is in com­plete con­trol of him­self. He keeps a tight lid on the wild and tem­per­a­men­tal side. But some­times that “will and fo­cus” slips. Which is why he blew up when he was lead­ing the Mas­ters in 2014, with back-to-back bo­geys at the 8th and 9th, and again two years later, when he took a quadru­ple bo­gey at the 12th. Then when he won last year’s Open, of course, he did it with that ex­traor­di­nary shot from off the prac­tice grounds be­hind the 13th. →

With Spi­eth, you can be sure there will be a wob­ble sooner or later. The only ques­tion is whether it is go­ing to throw him right off or not. This time, it did. You could see it com­ing when Spi­eth was play­ing the first four holes on the fi­nal day, which he cov­ered in even-par. He was tee­ter­ing. The gust­ing wind seemed to throw his sense of which club to use and when. He was crit­i­cis­ing him­self for us­ing the “wrong stick, man” at the 2nd, and he got it wrong again at the 3rd.

Francesco Molinari, who won with a to­tal of eight un­der par, said he was proud of his feat of manag­ing to stay bo­gey free through the week­end, when the wind be­came more of a fac­tor for what was his third win of the sea­son and his first ma­jor ti­tle. Francesco said he felt a sense of dis­be­lief af­ter be­com­ing the first Ital­ian to win the Claret Jug, adding that the fact he achieved it while play­ing with Tiger Woods – who held the outright lead at seven un­der at one point – made it even more spe­cial.

“I got here only Mon­day lunchtime from the States and walked a few holes, and I saw it was firm and fast and the rough wasn’t too bad, I don’t think any­one feels too con­fi­dent when they stand on that first tee at Carnoustie.” added Molinari, whose pre­vi­ous best fin­ish was tied for ninth in 2013.

“Tiger him­self was great to­day,” said Molinari, who joked that he might make the head­lines back in Italy given Fer­rari did not win the Ger­man Grand Prix. “He showed re­ally good sports­man­ship with me. Ob­vi­ously, there’s a lot more peo­ple around if you’re grouped with him than if I’m play­ing some of the other guys.

“I’ve played with him be­fore in Ry­der Cups and in big oc­ca­sions, so I knew what was com­ing, and I was ready for it. I was calm – you know, as calm as you can be play­ing in the last round of a ma­jor close to the lead, play­ing with Tiger. I fo­cused on my process and on hit­ting good shots and on play­ing smart golf.”

He added that he only started to be­lieve he could win when the young Schauf­fele missed a par putt at the 17th to slip two be­hind the lead with one hole to go. “I thought there was maybe a 5% chance. I couldn’t watch Xan­der play the last two holes, to be hon­est,” he said. “That’s why I went to the putting green be­cause I prob­a­bly would have felt sick watch­ing on TV.” Schauf­fele fin­ished T2 along with Rory McIl­roy, Justin Rose and Kis­ner.

McIl­roy did not pro­duce the round he en­vis­aged he needed to get him­self into con­tention for the Claret Jug but, with the most dif­fi­cult wind con­di­tions of the week gust­ing across the course on Sun­day af­ter­noon and mak­ing scor­ing dif­fi­cult, he ral­lied on the back nine, pro­duc­ing a sig­nif­i­cant ea­gle at the 14th which got him to six un­der, and he will surely have left Carnoustie won­der­ing what might have been.

Re­flect­ing on his fi­nal score of six un­der par, which gave him a share of sec­ond place, Rory McIl­roy said: “I don’t leave here with re­grets, I played a good tour­na­ment but this week is just wasn’t good enough.”

↑ Francesco Molinari cel­e­brates with the Claret Jug af­ter win­ning the 147th Open Cham­pi­onship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 22, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

↘ Tommy Fleet­wood re­acts to a missed putt on the 18th green.

↙ Tiger Woods re­acts to his sec­ond shot on the 12th hole.

Rory McIl­roy cel­e­brates hol­ing a ea­gle putt on the 14th hole. ↓

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