The Open: Francesco Molinari Wins The Open After Holding Off Tiger Woods, Justin Rose & Rory McIlroy
Molinari produced a faultless final round of 69 in windy conditions on the Scottish links to finish eight under.
Tiger Woods finished five under after leading midway through the round, with Jordan Spieth on four under.
Molinari, 35, emerged from a six-way tie for the lead, when all the players were either on the back nine or in the clubhouse, to lift the Claret Jug.
The Europe Ryder Cup player started the final day three shots adrift of overnight leaders Spieth, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele, but maintained composure while his rivals all dropped shots in a thrilling battle for the lead.
“It is absolutely amazing,” Molinari said. “I think it will take a long time to sink in. It has been a great week.
“The course bit me a few times in the first two days, but to go bogey-free around this track at the weekend is incredible.”
Molinari takes form onto the biggest stage
Molinari, ranked 15th in the world, had been tipped by a number of experts before the tournament as a player to watch at Carnoustie – and he proved them right with an assured display over the four days.
Despite a modest Open record, he had been backed on the strength of a fine few months which saw him claim the PGA Championship at Wentworth – his biggest win on the European Tour – and his maiden PGA Tour victory at the Quicken Loans Classic.
Steady opening rounds of 70 and 72 took him into the weekend, before a stunning 65 on Saturday propelled him into contention.
Molinari stressed the importance of making pars on Sunday in an interview after his third round and fulfilled his target by beginning with 13 in succession in testing conditions.
That steady sequence was ended with a birdie on the par-five 14th, before a glorious approach on the 18th allowed him to convert another.
Molinari looked anxious as he waited in the scorer’s cabin, watching nearest challenger Schauffele close his round before moving outside to the putting green when the American bogeyed the 17th.
Schauffele, 24, needed to eagle the last hole to force a play-off, his approach landing short and allowing Molinari to celebrate with his caddie and wife.
Woods is undoubtedly the biggest star that golf has ever produced, a global name who has transcended the sport since he won his first major at the 1997 Masters aged 21.
Thirteen more majors followed over the next 11 years as the American looked set to break Jack Nicklaus’ tally of 18 major victories – a record which has stood since 1986.
But his career derailed after a series of personal scandals were followed by a serious back injury, leaving many questioning whether he would ever return anywhere near to his best.
Ranked 650th at the start of the year, Woods has answered that positively with his lowest 72-hole total at a major since the 2012 Open.
Woods back among the world’s best
Woods’ surge led to fervent support on the Scottish links, a buzz of excitement following the 42-year-old around the course – which saw a record crowd of 172,000 attend over the week – and on social media.
Two birdies on the front nine, coupled with dropped shots for Spieth and Schauffele, helped him take the outright lead of a major for the first time since his peak years.
A double bogey at the 11th derailed his bid for a first major since the 2008 US Open and, although a birdie on the 14th briefly reignited his hopes, he had to settle for a share of sixth place after signing for a level-par 71.