Golf is a funny sport. It is more a mental test than a physical battle that typically defines a sport, and yet if you ask any golfer, they will say that consistent form is very hard to find in this game. Several follow up a birdie with a bogey, one strong round with a weak one, a championship title with a missed cut.
This makes Francesco Molinari’s Open win all the more spectacular, it means that in his last five events he has finished in the top two in four of them.
Molinari set himself up for his first claret jug and Italy’s first ever major golfing tournament with an opening three rounds of 70, 72 and 65 to leave himself six under par going into the last day, three shots behind the joint overnight leaders Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner.
As the leaders began teed off, the feeling that several storylines could play out over the afternoon’s golf was prevalent. Indeed, one eventuality was almost written in stone as the favourites started.
Unheralded Englishman Eddie Pepperell, who later admitted he started his round slightly hungover, had taken the clubhouse lead on five under par, a scenario reminiscent of Paul Lawrie’s 1999 Open win, also held at Carnoustie. With the wind picking up in typical Links fashion, there was a general sense that already being in the clubhouse was an advantage with the leaders likely to drop shots.
However, as many wondered if Pepperell’s final day 67 would be enough to win, another storyline took centre stage.
Tiger Woods’ career is one that almost everyone knows the story of. The golfer many claim to be the best of all time, with 14 major wins including 3 Open Championships (the most recent of which was in 2006) suddenly found himself with a chance to have his fairy-tale comeback.
Tiger last topped the world rankings in 2014, before 4 different back surgeries saw his ranking plummet to a career low 1,005th as recently as July 2017. While he has found some form this season, not many expected to see Woods challenging to be Open Champion. However, with the leaders faltering, Woods briefly found himself with a one-shot lead, before dropping shots on the following two holes to really open the championship up on the back 9.
At one point there was a 6-way tie for the lead with big names beginning to smell blood. Justin Rose, who had been just out of contention all week, hit the flag with his second shot to the par 5 14th, giving himself an easy eagle putt which he combined with a strong finish to take the clubhouse lead at 6 under par. Within half an hour of Rose’s eagle on 14, Rory McIlroy’s challenge came alive on the same hole when he sank a monstrous 40ft eagle putt. Ultimately though, too many dropped shots earlier in the day curtailed the Northern Irishman’s challenge.
Amidst the leaderboard’s constant fluctuation throughout the afternoon, there was only one constant, the Italian Francesco Molinari hovering at the top. Such was his consistency that Molinari parred all the first 13 holes, before birdies on the 14th and 18th holes gave him the lead, a lead which he would not lose as his closest challenger still on the course, Xander Schauffele faltered on the 17th and was unable to make back the shot on the last.
And so, in a sport where inconsistency is consistently common, the man who has been able to find a little bit of steady form over the last couple of months has proven himself a worthy champion. Seeing off one of the strongest challenging casts ever seen in an Open Championship, where the cream really did rise to the top in Francesco Molinari, a worthy winner of the 147th British Open.