Carnoustie (United Kingdom): It was expected that recent American dominance of the Majors would continue at the British Open, but instead the Carnoustie course here delivered Italy’s first ever winner of the Claret Jug in the shape of Francesco Molinari.
Perhaps it was not the outcome that the huge crowds thronging the fairways Sunday were hoping for, especially as Molinari’s playing partner Tiger Woods looked in line at one point to claim his first Major in a decade.
But while Woods faded after dropping three strokes in two holes at the 11th and 12th, Molinari kept his cool to shoot a second consecutive bogey-free round.
His 69 left him eight under par, two shots clear of his nearest challengers including Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, three ahead of Woods and four shots ahead of last year’s winner Jordan Spieth.
Molinari is a rare golfer from continental Europe to lift the Claret Jug – Sweden’s Henrik Stenson triumphed at Royal Troon in 2016 but before him you have to go back to Seve Ballesteros in 1988.
I just hope this (winning the British Open) is a boost for golf in Italy. Hopefully many kids will now take up the sport
The 35-year-old also finally delivered a Major win for his country and hoped victory will have an impact back home in Italy, where Formula One is usually just about the only sport that competes with football for the headlines.
“The last round already was big news in Italy. Obviously, to achieve something like this is on another level,” said Molinari, who started the day six under par, three shots off the lead. “Hopefully, there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today (Sunday).
Molinari, who lives in London and supports West Ham United, was not the favourite coming into the week but perhaps he should have been given his recent form.
Molinari has long since emerged from the shadow of his elder brother Edoardo, who played at the 2010 Ryder Cup and finished in the top 10 at the 2014 British Open but has dropped to 397th in the world rankings now.
“I would love for him to get back to where he was a few years ago. Golf is a tough beast,” said Francesco. “He’s experienced some bad injuries and two hand surgeries, but he’s come back from this one again already. I wish him all the best.”
Meanwhile, the Americans will be particularly wary of the Italian during the Ryder Cup after his outstanding performance here.
“He’s been playing unbelievable golf. He’s been working his butt off. I see him in the gym all the time, going through his routine, grinding on the range, doing his own stuff,” said Jordan Spieth.