MOLINARI’S MAIDEN MAJOR WIN
On one of the hardest courses Francesco Molinari has his own and Italy’s maiden Major win.
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. ↓