Francesco Molinari made all sorts of history on Sunday as he held off Danny Willett to win the Italian Open by one stroke.
With his closing-round 65, Molinari wound up 22-under, beating the Masters champion by one stroke. It’s his second time winning the Italian Open, making him the first native player to do this. He’s also the first Italian to win any event twice on the European Tour.
It was a near thing as he had a four-shot lead with his holes to play, only to see Willett birdie No. 13 and eagle No. 14 to cut the gap to one stroke. Neither player managed anything other than a par on the final four holes.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Molinari said. “It’s amazing to see this amount of people out here supporting me. I had the ideal start, I couldn’t start any better. When I birdied 12, I got four shots [clear] and thought maybe I could relax a bit and I got punished straight away. Coming in I had nothing left, I was just playing with my soul.”
He ended the tournament the same way he started it, with a 65. He put together rounds of 68 and 64 in the middle. Willett had the led after two rounds, opening with a 66-64 to move ahead by three strokes. Molinari pulled even however when Willett slipped back to a 67 on Saturday.
How good was Molinari? So good that Willett recorded exactly one birdie over the entire four days and still finished second. The second-place finish gave Willett a bit more of a lead in the Race to Dubai standings. He now has 3,543,175 points. Henrik Stenson is second with 3,130,447.
Molinari, who had been hanging around the mid-40s in the Dubai standings vaulted to 19th with the victory. He has 1,011,107 and is the 19th player this year to breach the 1-million point mark.