Sunday surge sends Molinari soaring
Final-round 64 vaults him to two-shot victory at Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard
March 10, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Francesco Molinari wins by two at Arnold Palmer
ORLANDO - A Sunday surge to victory at Arnie’s place … it just makes sense.
For the second year running – this time from Italian Francesco Molinari – a stunning 8-under 64 final round has turned up a champion at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
It is like Palmer himself, who was known for his aggressive charges up the leaderboard, has a hand in it from the great beyond.
Molinari started the final round five shots behind the leader, but his bogey-free Sunday shot him to 12 under and a two-shot win.
It was punctuated by a stunning 43-foot, nine-inch birdie putt on the final hole – the scene of so much drama over the years.
The Italian now has three PGA TOUR wins in his last 12 TOUR starts and rocketed from 151st to 20th in the FedExCup and to seventh in the world rankings.
“I tried to be aggressive from the start and it was nice to see quite a lot of putts dropping … especially for my standards,” Molinari said.
“I think it's been the best putting round ever in my career. And it's nice to do it, obviously in those circumstances, at Arnie's place.
“And I don't know, there must be something going on with that line (on 18), because it seems that a lot of guys winning the tournament make that putt.”
A year ago it was Rory McIlroy shooting 8 under on Sunday to win. He had a chance to go back-to-back having started just one off the lead but faded to a T6 finish.
Overnight leader Matt Fitzpatrick (71) finished two back.
Molinari said it was certainly fitting for the event to be won in a way Arnold would likely have been satisfied with.
Francesco Molinari's news conference after winning at Arnold Palmer
“It's always a pleasure for us to come back here to his place, it was obviously even better when he was around, but even now you can feel his presence and, yeah, hopefully he saw Rory last year and he saw me this year and he's proud of what we did out there,” Molinari said.
“Coming from Italy, we weren't exposed to that much golf, but obviously Arnie was such a global icon and this tournament was one that we watched, my brother and myself, at home many times.
“Watching Tiger making that putt on 18 ... So it's still a bit unreal to think that I've done kind of the same today.”
Molinari now lays claim to being one of the most clutch players in world golf.
He joins Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland with the most final rounds (four) of 64 or better on the PGA TOUR since the start of the 2016-17 season.
“I know that I can shoot low scores pretty much on every golf course … I'm not scared to say that, or I'm not shy of confidence in that way,” Molinari added.
“It's never easy, but I think what makes the difference is my mental approach is a lot better than what it was three, four years ago and I practice at home to do this sort of stuff in tournaments.”
The next step is a drive up I-95 to Ponte Vedra Beach to take his place at THE PLAYERS Championship.
He will look to become the first Italian to win the iconic event.
“THE PLAYERS next week is one of those weeks that you circle in the calendar at the beginning of the year,” Molinari said.
“I had quite a long off season, but I was hoping to hit form around THE PLAYERS and things have gone even better than I thought.”
No player has ever won the week before THE PLAYERS and triumphed at TPC Sawgrass.
But don’t rule out Molinari breaking that trend.
Shot of the Day
Francesco Molinari's clutch birdie on No. 18 is the Shot of the Day