The Open Golf Championship at Carnoustie had been expected to provide a battle for ongoing American dominance against the very best players the rest of the world had to offer, such as Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood. Nobody imagined that, if the claret jug was not about to be wrapped up in the Stars and Stripes like the other major titles, it would find itself in the hands of Francesco Molinari, a man who had never finished in the top 35 of the Open before.

Yet that is exactly what has happened. His feat is a fairytale story that bears re-telling; at 35 years of age his career had mostly been an unspectacular one in which he had never come close to such glory. For years it was his brother Edoardo, a three-time European tour winner, who was the better player.

However, it wasn't a complete overnight sensation: Molinari did tie for second in the 2017 Players Championship, and this year picked up the BMW PGA Championship ahead of Rory McIlroy in May and the Quickens Loan Championship last month. That he was a player in form was without question.

Even so, his achievement was the first major win by an Italian and it came despite so many of the big names playing well and with their eyes on the big prize.

Molinari finished on eight under with four players - including Rose and McIlroy - joint second on six under. One of those on five under was Tiger Woods, while defending champion Jordan Spieth was among those on four under.

Indeed, the Italian managed to stay under the radar right until the last day, even though he struck a superb round of 65 on Saturday to move into contention.

At the start of the championship, Fleetwood and McIlroy began strongly and gave British fans plenty to be excited about. On the Saturday, however, Spieth produced a superb round as he snatched the initiative; from his eagle on the first hole he was in ominously good form, displaying the kind of calm and metronomic brilliance that has brought him, three majors, already.

While that was going on, however, it was Tiger who was capturing the imagination. If not quite back to his imperious best, there were regular flashes of genius and also a lovely touch on the final day when he hit one wayward drive that hit a spectator. He walked over, shook the hand of the man in question - who was thankfully not badly hurt - and gave him a signed glove.

Going into the final day, many anticipated a shootout between Woods and Spieth, a battle between the old and new American legends.

That, however, was to reckon without joint overnight leaders Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele, not to mention McIlroy and Rose. Yet it was Molinari's two-under round of 69 on a windy last day that enabled him to pip them all.

Woods actually moved into the outright lead on the front nine on the Sunday, but was unable to sustain his momentum. Instead, it was Molinari who held his nerve and Schauffele who was closest to forcing a play-off. However, after bogeying the 17th, Schauffele needed an eagle on the last and fell short.

As the 2017 rookie of the year, Californian Schauffele will surely taste success soon. But the day - and the tournament - was all about Molinari's long-awaited moment of glory.




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