Emo­tional Moli­nari edges Wil­lett in Monza thriller

The Herald - Herald Sport - - SHINTY, GOLF -

HOME favourite Francesco Moli­nari held off the chal­lenge of Masters cham­pion Danny Wil­lett to win a sec­ond Ital­ian Open in dra­matic style.

The two men had to re­turn to com­plete their third rounds yes­ter­day morn­ing af­ter tor­ren­tial rain and thun­der­storms had led to de­lays on days one and two and they be­gan round four locked to­gether at the top of the leader­board on 16 un­der.

The Ital­ian made an ea­gle-birdie start and looked like he was go­ing to run away with it in front of a loud and par­ti­san crowd when he opened up a four-shot lead stood on the 13th tee.

Wil­lett is made of stern stuff, though, and he showed all the fight­ing qual­i­ties he will need when he tees it up for Europe at the Ry­der Cup in 12 days’ time, birdieing the 13th and hit­ting a stun­ning sec­ond shot to 12 feet to ea­gle the next. Both play­ers hit poor tee-shots on the last as the nerves be­gan to show and, when Moli­nari hit an ex­cel­lent cut from be­hind a tree with Wil­lett still 130 yards short of the green, the game looked to be up.

But Wil­lett showed once again why he will re­turn to the top 10 in the world when the rank­ings are re­leased to­day, hol­ing a clutch putt from 12 feet for par and leav­ing Moli­nari a nervy putt for vic­tory.

For 2006 cham­pion Moli­nari, it was a first win since 2012 and he was vis­i­bly emo­tional on the 18th green.

“It’s been a roller­coaster,” he said. “It’s amaz­ing to see this amount of peo­ple out here sup­port­ing me. I had the ideal start, I couldn’t start any bet­ter. When I birdied 12 I got four shots [clear] and thought maybe I could re­lax a bit and I got pun­ished straight away. Com­ing in I had noth­ing left, I was just play­ing with my soul.

“I was hit­ting hor­ri­ble shots, but some­how I man­aged to bring it in.”

This was Wil­lett’s fi­nal round of com­pet­i­tive golf be­fore he faces the United States at Hazel­tine and the 28-year-old be­lieves com­ing up against such a fe­ro­cious home crowd will hold him in good stead. “I’m sure it’s go­ing to be 100 times worse when we get to the Ry­der Cup in Amer­ica, but it’s been a lit­tle bit of a taster,” he said.

“It’s been good to play un­der that pres­sure and be un­der the gun and be in con­tention. If you fin­ish a golf tour­na­ment 21 un­der par and you lose, I don’t think you can be too dis­heart­ened about it.”

English­man Chris Pais­ley fin­ished tied for third at 18 un­der, two shots ahead of coun­try­men Richard Bland and David Horsey. Another English­man, Tommy Fleet­wood, was at 15 un­der with Scot­land’s Scott Jamieson.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.