Sport Golf

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Ryder test key to Molinari victory

Italy's Francesco Molinari is congratulated by the caddie, left, of Lee Westwood while the world number one looks on. Photo: AP
Italy's Francesco Molinari is congratulated by the caddie, left, of Lee Westwood while the world number one looks on. Photo: AP

Bernie McGuire in Shanghai

Francesco Molinari attributed the experience of being on the opposite side of a Ryder Cup singles drubbing by Tiger Woods as pivotal to his success at the WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.

Molinari shot a final-round 67 to claim his first title in four years, defeating new world No 1 Lee Westwood, who also shot a 67, by one stroke with a 19-under-par total.

It is the first time in the history of the European Tour that the same two players have remained first and second on the leaderboard for all four days in a tournament, and it is only the second time two brothers have won in the same season -- Seve Ballesteros and his brother Manuel were the first in capturing events in 1983.

Woods defeated Molinari 4&3 at Celtic Manor and the Italian and Westwood turned the final two days in Shanghai into their own match-play struggle with Westwood, despite finishing runner-up, ending the event nine strokes clear of Scotland's Richie Ramsay (71) and England's Luke Donald (73) in third place on nine-under-par. Rory McIlroy recorded a 67 to finish fifth on eight-under-par.

In a further lift for European Tour fortunes, 17 of the leading 21 players -- among them Padraig Harrington (73), who shared 16th place -- are European Tour members. Furthermore, 13 of those 17 are European-born, with Tiger Woods (68), who ended tied sixth with the South Africans Ernie Els (73) and Retief Goosen (68), among those who were not born in Europe.

Molinari breathed a huge sigh of relief when his final putt dropped and there was no one more proud than his elder brother, Edoardo, a two-time winner in Europe this year, who stood by the 18th green applauding Francesco's victory.

"I'm just really, really happy as it's been a long way coming," said Molinari. "But a lot of people told me, 'If you have to wait this long, it's going to be a special one', and, in the end, they were right. It was also great to see my brother there to congratulate me and to show me his support.

"It was a day of mixed feelings, a bit of relief, and a huge boost of adrenalin. It's been four fantastic days, and especially the last two going head-to-head with Lee were really tough.

"But the experience of playing alongside Tiger (Woods) at the Ryder Cup definitely helped me over the last couple of days, because when you are playing against the world No 1, it is not easy to always stick to the game plan and play your own game."

McIlroy again showed his liking for the Shanghai course, shooting birdies on his opening three holes and picking up four more birdies in his round to finish one place lower than his fourth last year.

"I played nicely this week and it's sort of been coming as I've showed signs this week but I never really got the momentum," said McIlroy. "It was nice to start with three birdies and then I was five-under through eight and it was just a pity I couldn't keep it going around the turn."


McIlroy stays at No 9 in the world rankings, while he has moved up a place to 13th on the Race to Dubai money list. He is competing in a corporate day today in Singapore, but instead of contesting this week's Singapore Open, McIlroy is returning home before his next event, the UBS Hong Kong event, which starts on November 18.

Harrington dropped a place to No 20 in the world after his final-round 73. The triple Major winner had four birdies but spoilt his day with a pair of double-bogeys -- at the fifth hole, when his fairway bunker shot with a seven-iron caught the lip of the bunker and failed to get out, and then at the last when he put his second shot into the water.

Graeme McDowell dropped a further €3,226 behind Germany's Martin Kaymer in the Race to Dubai money list after his 34th place, following a final-day 69 for a one-under-par tally. Kaymer finished on two-under after a final-round 71. Both players now head to Singapore with McDowell €531,806 behind his fellow Major winner.

Irish Independent

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