Friday, 19 October, 2018

For 38 minutes, Tiger Woods comeback looked complete

Italian idol Rocca yesterday at St Andrews the venue for this week’s Senior Open Open champ Francesco Molinari laps up praise from ‘hero’ Costantino Rocca by Nick Metcalfe Published
| 27 July, 2018, 23:03

"He does things that maybe he didn't do 10, 15 years ago, but it's still great to have him back".

Molinari closed with a 69, significant for two reasons.

Despite being in hot form, the Italian was sailing under the radar. Excluding Masters coverage, which always blows the other three majors away, this was the highest-rated final round since the 2015 PGA Championship.

It is wonderful too that the 35-year-old put his composure to work when it mattered most.

Molinari was not at all fazed by the huge crowds and the media circus following Woods, and he did not have a single bogey all day, following on from a blemish-free 65 on Saturday.

Woods was so close to a fairytale return to the Open at Carnoustie after a three-year absence, eventually coming up three short of eventual victor Francesco Molinari, having led around the turn in his final round.

"I don't really feel like it's a defeat", said McIlroy.

"He's a personality and a figure that I was missing and the whole team was missing", Molinari told CNN Sport earlier in the week, acknowledging he'd been "pushed a little bit more". I was calm - you know, as calm as you can be playing in the last round of a major close to the lead, playing with Tiger.

"Serena and I are good friends". "Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time".


"I am very proud".

Justin Rose reignited English hope with a stirring performance over the weekend.

Rory McIlroy's eagle on the 14th put him in the frame but he couldn't catch Molinari. Jordan Spieth took a risk from the rough on the par-5 sixth and made double bogey. That was at Bay Hill, where Woods made birdie on the 13th hole to get within one shot of the lead.

Just three years after multiple back surgeries had made even getting out of bed agony, much less playing golf, here he was, leading the Open Championship at Carnoustie. Spieth was starting his sophomore year at Texas. There was to be no encore for the young man.

But a double-bogey at the par-four 11th, where he failed to pull off a delicate flop shot from beyond the green, proved the undoing of the 14-time major champion.

He was gracious in his moment of desolate defeat, paying a rich tribute to Francesco. "I see him in the gym all the time, going through his routine, grinding on the range, doing his own stuff". I loved seeing him jump to 20th. Molinari is a rare golfer from continental Europe to lift the Claret Jug - Sweden's Henrik Stenson triumphed at Royal Troon in 2016 but before him you have to go back to Seve Ballesteros in 1988. "It's the best golfers in history and to be on there is incredible for someone like me coming from Italy, not really a major golfing country".

At the age of 35, he becomes the first Italian player ever to win a major, after keeping his cool in remarkable fashion when nearly all around him seemed to be losing theirs on a warm but windy afternoon on the Scottish coast. Our inherent bias and desire for a champion moulded in the cast of our own perceptions is a odd human fixation.

He was a forgotten figure when he teed off in the final round of the British Open, mainly because he was playing with Tiger Woods, and because of the star power around him.

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