How did Europe's Ryder Cup stars perform at the Italian Open?
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 19/09/16 7:01am
Danny Willett headlined an encouraging performance from the seven members of Europe's Ryder Cup team in action at the Italian Open.
Willett's bogey at the third hole in the opening round proved to be the only blemish on his card in the entire tournament as he made a timely return to form less than two weeks before he makes his debut for Darren Clarke's side at Hazeltine.
The Masters champion had not posted a top-10 on the European Tour since finishing third in the flagship BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May, and he failed to card a sub-70 round in five straight events.
But he broke that run with two excellent rounds at the Omega European Masters earlier this month, opening with a 65 and going one better on the final day in Switzerland, and he clearly took that form and confidence to the Golf Club Milano.
Willett made 20 birdies and one eagle in Italy, although it was not enough to prevent two-time Ryder Cup star Francesco Molinari from snatching a thrilling one-shot win to the delight of his adoring home fans.
The performance from the world No 11 was far from the only good news for Clarke with five other members of his team enjoying top-20 finishes, but Lee Westwood was the odd man out as he missed the halfway cut after two bogeys over the last three holes of his second round.
Rafa Cabrera Bello carded 22 birdies, seven of them in a flawless third-round 64, although he offset six birdies with three bogeys in a closing 68 which saw him slip out of the top 10 on 14 under par.
The Spaniard will head to Minnesota in good spirits after ending the week tied for 12th, following a pair of top-five finishes at the Olympic Games and the Wyndham Championship.
Matt Fitzpatrick began the final round just three strokes off the lead, and a birdie at the opening hole put him in position to challenge for his second victory of the season.
But the 22-year-old then double-bogeyed the second and, by the time he had clawed one shot back at the ninth, he was too far behind Molinari and Willett barring something spectacular on the back nine.
He set himself up for a rousing finish with birdies at 13 and 14 only to bogey the 15th and 18th holes to return a disappointing 71 - 13 under par for the tournament.
Martin Kaymer, the only non-rookie to make the final 36 holes, was a further shot adrift after another solid week, which could have been more lucrative had he not come a cropper at two par-fives in the last round.
The German, who will make his fourth straight appearance for Europe at Hazeltine, opened with a bogey-six before responding with three birdies over the next four holes but undid two-thirds of that stretch with an ugly seven at the ninth.
But the two-time major champion went back in the right direction after the turn, picking up three shots in four holes from the 11th to salvage a respectable 68 - his third sub-70 score of a consistent week.
Chris Wood was alongside Kaymer on 12 under, although the BMW PGA champion remains without a top-10 finish since the Lyoness Open back in June.
Wood was firmly in contention at the halfway stage after blitzing nine birdies in a second-round 63, the joint-low round of the tournament, but his challenge faded with a pair of 70s.
The Englishman dropped only one shot in each of the first three rounds, but he bogeyed the fourth, fifth and eighth in round four before bouncing back with three birdies, including one at the last which got him under the card for the day.
Andy Sullivan was arguably the biggest concern for Clarke having arrived in Monza on the back of three consecutive missed cuts, but he arrested that slide with a morale-boosting tie for 20th.
The popular 29-year-old, who won all three of his European Tour titles last year, got to within five shots of the lead after firing a flawless third-round 65 - his best round of the season.
He struggled to make much happen over the last 18 holes, mixing three birdies with two bogeys, but he will be happy with his best result since finishing tied for 12th at The Open.