Francesco Molinari pulled off what no other Italian, including Costantino Rocca, has been able to achieve.
The 35-year-old Molinari became the first golfer from Italy to win a major championship, carding a bogey-free, 2-under-par 69 to win the 147th Open Championship by two strokes over four players at Carnoustie Golf Links in Carnoustie, Scotland.
“What a week; it’s incredible to be standing here in front of all these people,” Molinari said after accepting the coveted Claret Jug. “I want to thank my family back home in Italy for their support, and especially my wife, who is a big part of my team.
“It was a tough fight and everybody played great, but unfortunately in golf there can be only one winner and this time it’s me. … To play the weekend bogey-free is just unbelievable. I’m just in disbelief. It’s amazing to be standing here with the Claret Jug.”
Molinari, who has won three of his last six tournaments world-wide including the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour, chipped and putted brilliantly to record a winning score of 8-under 276.
The closest an Italian had come to winning a major was Rocca, who holed an unlikely birdie putt on the final hole of regulation in the 1995 Open at St. Andrews, but lost to John Daly in a four-hole playoff.
Molinari broke out of a tie for the lead with Xander Schauffele when he sank a five-foot birdie putt on the last hole.
Schauffele, 24, from La Jolla and San Diego, drove wildly and made a bogey on the 17th hole and closed with a 74. He tied for second with 2013 Open champ and eighth-ranked Rory McIlroy (70) of Northern Ireland, Kevin Kisner (74) and third-ranked Justin Rose (69) of England, who had to hole a 10-foot birdie putt at No. 18 in round two to make the cut on the number.
Tiger Woods, seeking his 15th major title and the first since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, held sole possession of the lead until going double bogey-bogey on the 11th and 12th holes on his way to a 71. He finished three shots back in a tie for sixth with Kevin Chappell of Fresno and UCLA, who had a 74, and Eddie Pepperell of England, who wound up at 67.
“I figured 9-under would be the number (to win), but I just didn’t do it,” said Woods, who played alongside Molinari. “I made a few mistakes, drove into the high rough on 11 and 12, and the grass wrapped around the shaft of my club.
“ … Francesco played so well. His short game was really on-point.”
Defending champion and sixth-ranked Jordan Spieth, who was tied for the 54-hole lead with Kisner and Schauffele, failed to make a birdie while closing with a 76 and was four behind in a tie for ninth with Tony Finau, who had a 71, and Matt Kuchar, who came in at 72.
“I put myself in position to win, but it just wasn’t my day,” said Spieth, who was trying to become the first player since Padraig Harrington of Ireland in 207 and 2008 to win consecutive Opens. “I hit two shots into bunkers and one into a bush.
“But overall the week was good and I’m looking forward to a strong finish to the year. … I think my best golf in front of me.”
Tenth-ranked Tommy Fleetwood of England tied for 12th after a 73, ninth-ranked Jason Day of Australia shot 68 to tie for 17th, 2015 Open champion Phil Mickelson totaled 70 to tie for 24th, seventh-ranked Rickie Fowler of Murrieta finished in a tie for 28th after a 72, and fourth-ranked Brooks Koepka tied for 39th with a 70.
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