Francesco Molinari again played like “The Champion Golfer of the Year,” which he was when he captured the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland.
The 36-year-old Italian, who entered the week 10th in the World Golf Rankings, sank a 44-foot birdie putt on the last hole to cap a bogey-free, 8-under-par 64 early in the day and it held up for a two-stroke victory over Matthew Fitzpatrick of England in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Resort and Club www.bayhill.com in Orlando, Fla.
“I’m just super glad,” said Molinari, who claimed his 11th professional victory. “It’s great to get it done here at Arnie’s place with the wife and kids watching on TV at home. To win here is just super special. It’s high up there with the best wins of my career.
“I had no game plan, just to hit good shots and give myself chances. I played late yesterday and the course was not easy, so I knew the leaders were going to have a hard time today. I made a couple good up-and-downs late yesterday to keep myself in it.
“Today, I just started making putts. It was probably my best putting round ever.”
Molinari, who collected four birdies on each nine, posted a 72-hole score of 12-under 276 and became the sixth international winner of the API in the last 10 years.
Fitzpatrick, who shared the 54-hole lead with sixth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, shot 71, while Tommy Fleetwood of England and Sungjae Im of South Korea both totaled 68 to finish three shots back in a tie for third with Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain, who closed with a 69.
McIlroy could manage only a 72 and was one more stroke behind in a tie for sixth with Keith Mitchell (66), who won the Honda Classic last week, Sung Kang (68) of South Korea, and Matt Wallace (71) of England.
Rookie Adam Long, who won the Desert Classic earlier this year, totaled 67 to wind up five down in a tie for 10th with Byeong Hun An (68) of South Korea, Lucas Glover (69), Jason Kokrak (70) and Luke List (71).
Seventh-ranked Rickie Fowler of Murrieta tied for 40th after a 71, fifth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis totaled 69 to tie for 46th and second-ranked Justin Rose of England slid to a tie for 63rd by stumbling to a 75.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/competition/2019/arnold-palmer-invitational-presented-by-mastercard/leaderboard.html