After several near-misses in one of the European Tour’s most prestigious tournaments, including being runner-up last year, Francesco Molinari finally made it into the winner’s circle at Wentworth yesterday with a two-shot victory in the BMW PGA Championship. The runner-up this year was Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlory. A shot further back were Sweden’s Alex Noren, who had denied Molinari in the 2017 event, and Lucas Bjerregaard from Denmark.
The 35-year-old from Turin was tied with McIlroy going into the final round but back-to-back birdies at the 3rd and 4th set up a closing 68 and his fifth win on the European Tour. He only had two bogeys all week and none on the weekend. He also launched himself into fourth place on the European points list in his effort to make the Ryder Cup team for a third time. His two previous appearances, in 2010 and 2012, have been on victorious teams.
“It’s great to come out on top after being close so many times down the years,” said Molinari. “When I saw Rory three ahead after two days I thought it was going to be very tough to catch him. I feel drained now so I can’t think about next week in Italy too much but I’ll have a couple of days off and try to recover as much as possible. It will be a busy week but hopefully I can play similar golf to this week and be in contention again.”
At the halfway point, when he had shot 67-65, McIlroy had said it was far from over. “I could shoot two 65s over the weekend and still not win,” he declared. That would in fact have won it for him with nine shots to spare. To fire 71-70 was rather a damp squib; certainly not what he had in mind.
“I’m just disappointed I didn’t play better over the weekend,” he conceded. ” I was in a great position after two days. I struggled yesterday and sort of struggled today again. I just couldn’t get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead of me and I just couldn’t claw that back. I played some good golf coming down the back nine and hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward.” With the US Open less than a month away, there’s not a lot of time to fit all the working in.
Going into the weekend, when it had all seemed to be about McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood was four shots off the pace. “Who knows what Rory is going to do?” he said. “Obviously he’s the one everybody is going to be looking at and he’s the one with the lead. I might go out and play terrible tomorrow but I’ll be trying my heart out.”
Terrible it was, as it turned out: a five-over 77. But on Sunday it was a 68. If the man who won last year’s Race to Dubai can be nine shots different for two rounds within 24 hours, bear that in mind the next time you can’t find your game for the monthly medal and wonder if you’ll ever get it back.
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