Sport Golf

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Bad habits die hard for McIlroy as Molinari wins BMW

Rory McIlroy reacts to a missed putt on the 18th hole during yesterday’s final
round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photo credit: Tim Goode/PA Wire
Rory McIlroy reacts to a missed putt on the 18th hole during yesterday’s final round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Photo credit: Tim Goode/PA Wire

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy frightened the life out of Francesco Molinari with his B game, but still has time to get back "in sync" as the US Open looms.

The Co Down star went into the final day of the BMW Championship tied for the lead with the resurgent Italian at a rain-softened Wentworth.

And while he could not control a two-way miss, lapsing into the bad habits he thought he'd corrected with coach Michael Bannon, he still shot a battling 70 to finish solo second, two shots behind Molinari on 15-under.

"I'm just disappointed I didn't play better over the weekend," said McIlroy, who had a 25-foot eagle putt at the last that would have forced Molinari to hole a six-footer to avoid a play-off had it not stopped on the lip.

"I just couldn't get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead on me and I just couldn't claw that back."

He knew after his stunning 65 on Friday that his swing changes hadn't quite bedded in, confessing: "When you get under pressure and you're forced to hit shots out on the golf course, you revert back to what you've been doing."

As a result, he didn't hit a fairway until the sixth, when Molinari was already two shots clear after birdies at the third and fourth.

And while he matched Molinari's brilliant birdie at the eighth by rolling in an 18-footer, he bogeyed the ninth and 10th after pulled tee shots and then saw a string of birdie putts refuse to fall coming down the stretch.

Molinari did the rest with relentless ball-striking and never gave him an opening until he almost spun his third back into the water at the 18th when three shots clear.

"I was just trying to make five," said the Italian, who shot 68 to win by two shots from McIlroy on 17-under par, with Dane Lucas Bjerregaard and defending champion Alex Noren a further shot back after rounds of 65 and 67.

"I thought if I make five, hopefully he's not going to make two and tie me... It was just a bit of luck at the right time."

With two putts for the win, the Italian needed just one, clinching the €995,394 top prize, his first win for 20 months and enough Ryder Cup points to move up to fourth on the European Points list.

Convert

McIlroy was still disappointed not to convert the 17th 54-hole lead of his career into a win that would have given him a mathematical chance of going back to world No 1 in Columbus this week.

However, he was still proud that he didn't let his head drop and sees good things ahead.

"It's close, it's very close," McIlroy said before jetting back to the US for the Memorial and the US Open.

"I've given myself a great chance here this week. I didn't quite pull it off, but it's not far away.

"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead I should have closed it out this week."

There could also be big things in store for Graeme McDowell in the Italian Open this week after he closed with a bogey-free 68 to finish tied 12th on nine-under - his best finish for seven months.

There were also positive signs from Shane Lowry, who had little luck yesterday, but eagled the 18th from 25 feet to finish a shot further back in 15th after a 70.

"I feel like my game is back and I am quite close to something special," Lowry said. "Eight-under for the tournament is probably the worst score I could have been."

The Offaly man is annoyed, however, that the 36-hole US Open Sectional qualifier traditionally played at Walton Heath today has been moved back to next Monday. It means he must now seek his place at Shinnecock Hills at the Sectional Qualifier in Ohio the day after the Memorial or make the world's top 60 by June 11.

Youngest

"I don't know who makes those decisions, but I think it's a very poor one," said Lowry, who has never played the two qualifying courses he faces in Columbus on June 4.

Meanwhile on the PGA Tour, Justin Rose carded a final round 64 which saw him triumph at the Fort Worth Invitational in Texas and finish on -20 overall - three shots ahead of American Brooks Koepka.

In the Czech Republic, South Korean teenager Minkyu Kim became the youngest winner in European Tour and European Challenge Tour history at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge.

Aged 17 years and 64 days, he carded a 66 to win by three shots from Sweden's Sebastian Soderberg on 20-under par, beating Matteo Manassero's European Tour record by 124 days and Dominic Foos' Challenge Tour record by 283.

West Waterford's Gary Hurley shot a bogey-free 68 to tie for 35th on five-under with Naas' Jack Hume tied 55th on one-under after a 73, one shot better than Jonny Caldwell, who shot 70.

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