The Open: Francesco Molinari savours historic victory at Carnoustie
By Keith Jackson at Carnoustie
Last Updated: 23/07/18 10:44am
Francesco Molinari was in a state of "disbelief" shortly after having his name engraved on the Claret Jug at the closing ceremony of a memorable 147th Open.
Despite arriving at Carnoustie on the back of an amazing run of form featuring two victories and a pair of runner-up finishes on both sides of the Atlantic, Molinari insisted he did not fancy his chances earlier in the week due to his previous Open record.
Molinari missed the cut on his major debut at the Angus links in 2007, but he atoned in style 11 years later as he recorded the only bogey-free round of a blustery final day - an impressive 69 earning him a two-shot victory over Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.
The in-form Italian defied the pressure of playing alongside Tiger Woods, who held the outright lead at the turn before dropping three shots in two holes at 11 and 12, and Molinari's birdies at 14 and the last would be the decisive blows.
"I'm just in disbelief, to be honest," said Molinari, who had posted only one top-10 finish in his previous 10 Open appearances, with four missed cuts. "It's amazing to stand here with the Claret Jug.
"I knew I was coming in with some good golf, but 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.
WATCH: Molinari's winning round
Relive the highlights of Francesco Molinari's winning performance at Carnoustie
"To go the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest, so I'm very proud of today," added Molinari, who was delighted with the way he handled himself while playing with the 14-time major champion and the distractions that come with the honour.
"Obviously, playing with Tiger was another challenge because of the crowds and everything," he said "But I felt really good this morning and when I came here, I felt I was ready for the challenge. Obviously I was conscious that it could have gone either way, but I knew I was going to do my best today.
"Clearly, in my group, the attention wasn't really on me - let's put it that way. If someone was expecting a charge, probably they weren't expecting it from me, but it's been the same the whole of my career.
"I don't really care too much about it, but I do care about the people around me and the work that we put in. They know how much we've all worked to get here, so that's the most important thing for me.
"To look at the names on that Claret Jug, what can you say? They are the best golfers in history, and to be on there, it's incredible. From someone like me coming from Italy, not really a major golfing country, it's been an incredible journey."
Molinari also hopes that going one better than Costantino Rocca in 1995 and becoming the first major champion from Italy will inspire a new generation of young golfers in his homeland.
"Obviously, it would be massive news," he added. "The last round already was big news in Italy, so to achieve something like this is on another level. Hopefully, there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Constantino in '95 coming so close.
"Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time, watching him vie for the Claret Jug."