CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Francesco Molinari evoked memories of Nick Faldo’s memorable British Open win at Muirfield 31 years ago as the machine-like Italian played faultless golf before administering the coup de grace on Sunday.
While the form of his title rivals was going up and down like a violinist’s elbow in treacherous 25mph winds at Carnoustie, Molinari was grinding out par after relentless par — 13 in a row, in fact.
The 35-year-old’s first birdie of the day finally arrived at the par-five 14th and a pinpoint approach at the final hole set up another birdie opportunity from six feet that he needed no second invitation to take.
“It’s amazing to stand here with the Claret Jug,” Molinari told reporters after a closing 69 secured an eight-under tally of 276 and a two-stroke victory over Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.
“I knew I was coming in with some good golf. My record around here was terrible so that didn’t make me too optimistic about the week but I just tried to not think about it and focus on hitting good shots day by day.”
Faldo famously churned out 18 straight pars to land the first of his three British Open victories in 1987 and Molinari was even more efficient, going 37 holes without an error following his double-bogey at 17 in Friday’s second round.
“To go the weekend bogey-free, it’s unthinkable. I’m very proud,” he said after rocketing from 15th to sixth in the world rankings and clinching his place in Europe’s team for the Ryder Cup in France in September.
“To look at the names on that Claret Jug, what can you say? It’s the best golfers in history and to be on there is incredible for someone like me coming from Italy, not really a major golfing country.”
Molinari played alongside Tiger Woods on Sunday, in a repeat of their halved singles match on the final day of Europe’s ‘Miracle in Medinah’ Ryder Cup win six years ago.
“Tiger was great today,” he said after pocketing the first prize of $1.89 million and becoming Italy’s first major winner.
“Really good sportsmanship with me. There’s a lot more people watching if you’re grouped with him.
“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,” added Molinari.
Editing by Christian Radnedge