Published: Wed, March 13, 2019
Sports | By Johanna Francis

Career-best putting round sees Franceco Molinari win Arnold Palmer Invitational

Career-best putting round sees Franceco Molinari win Arnold Palmer Invitational

Playing in the same group, Triplett and Austin each shot 3-under 68 to finish at 10-under 203 at Newport Beach Country Club.

For Molinari, it meant a two-shot victory at Bay Hill, and his first since claiming the Open Championship in July previous year.

Molinari's final putt gave him a two-shot lead over Fitzpatrick and a four-shot lead over McIlroy, Keith Mitchell, who was the clubhouse leader at 8-under, Sung Kang, who was on the 18th hole, Sungjae Im, who was on 16, Tommy Fleetwood, who was on 16, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who was on 14, Luke List, who was on 14, Aaron Baddeley, who was on 12, and Matt Wallace, who was on 12.

"It's high up there with the best wins I've had", Molinari said, describing Palmer, who died in 2016, as a "global icon" of the sport.

"It's phenomenal", Fitzpatrick said of Molinari's round. "I'm not scared to say that, or I'm not shy of confidence in that way", Molinari said.

"To do it here at Arnie's place, knowing my wife and kids are watching from home, it's very special", Molinari said.

"I'm playing well, I'm getting myself into contention every week", said the Co Down man who will play just twice more before he seeks that elusive Masters victory at Augusta National in five weeks. In golf, a missed cut from a player owned by almost half the field can really make the difference in tournaments. "Like you said, I've seen so many putts on TV like that and to do it yourself it's really incredible". Playing his third from the drop zone, he came up short again, this time in the bunker.

Four-time major victor McIlroy and Fitzpatrick will play in the final group, while Baddeley and Englishman Matt Wallace (69) are the penultimate pair, in a share of third with Kevin Kisner (70). "I mean, I go about doing my own stuff and minding my own business, it's not really bothering me, wherever they put me in the tee times, as long as it ends up like this".

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Fitzpatrick didn't have much going, either.

McIlroy, one behind going into the final round, had curled in a 15 foot birdie putt at the third to share the lead, but a five-foot birdie chance missed at the next and he dropped a shot at the par three seventh after missing the green.

Molinari pointed to the first of his last four victories for sparking his turnaround. Starting the day seven shots off the lead, the 34-year-old birdied the first, second, third, eighth and ninth to turn in 31 and another gain on the 12th had him in touch. He played in the final round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth tied with McIlroy, closed with a 68 and won by two. "I think obviously confidence has to do a lot with it".

Meeting with the media and donned in an Arnold Palmer red alpaca cardigan, Molinari toasted Palmer with one of the legend's favourite drinks, Ketel One vodka, on the rocks, with a twist of lemon.

The 29-year-old has now played in the final pairing nine times in the last 13 months, failing to win any of those tournaments.

In October, Molinari became the first European to go 5-0 in the Ryder Cup during his team's rout of the Americans in Paris.

When he won last July at Carnoustie, Molinari had to sit 30 minutes before finding out he had won his first major championship.

"I said this after I won the Open Championship past year, I didn't enjoy it - that half an hour - at all and I didn't enjoy today at all watching the other guys", he said.

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