Italy’s Francesco Molinari came to the United States this week in search of points for the FedEx Cup playoffs and some momentum for the rest of the season, especially the two remaining major events on the professional golf calendar.
Molinari left with his first PGA Tour victory, unleashing a shot-making clinic on the field en route to a final-round, course-record-tying 62 on Sunday to win the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms in Potomac, Md., in the northwest suburbs of the nation’s capital.
Molinari finished at 21-under-par 259 to post an eight-shot victory over Ryan Armour, who managed a 68 on Sunday but was left far behind by Molinari’s wake. Sung Kang of South Korea fashioned a 64 earlier in the day and finished alone in third at 12 under.
Tiger Woods tied for fourth at 11 under with third-round co-leader Abraham Ancer of Mexico after a 66 on Sunday. Ancer carded a 72 and did not have a birdie on his scorecard in the final round after making eight birdies in the third round, in which he tied the course record one day before Molinari did so.
“Really proud of what I’ve done,” Molinari told CBS Sports. “This is what I came here for. It was not easy for me to skip Paris and the French Open (this week’s European Tour event), but I think, again, I can say I made the right decision.”
Bronson Burgoon (who shot a 67) and second-round co-leader Beau Hossler (68) finished tied for sixth at 10 under, while Ryan Palmer (67), second-round co-leader Brian Gay (68), Chesson Hadley (68) and Andrew Landry (71) ended up tied for eighth another stroke in arrears.
Molinari’s final-round performance equaled the course record, which was also achieved this week by Kevin Streelman on Friday and Ancer on Saturday.
Molinari is just the second national-born Italian to win on the PGA Tour, following Toney Penna, who won four times between 1937-47.
Molinari and Ancer began the final round tied at 13 under and two shots clear of the field. Molinari birdied the second and sixth holes, while Ancer never recovered from a bogey on the first hole and was three shots in back of the Italian at the turn.
Molinari eagled the par 5 10th — rolling in a 49-foot putt after finding the green in two — and birdied the 11th, the toughest hole at TPC Potomac, to build his lead to six strokes.
Another birdie on the 12th when Ancer left his birdie putt on the lip expanded Molinari’s advantage to seven strokes with six holes to play, and after two more birdies at the 13th and 14th, the rest of the round was a stroll to the finish line.
“It’s an amazing feeling — I still have to realize what’s happened,” Molinari said. “It was a lot easier than I thought (it would be). I played great on the back nine, the start was incredible.”
Molinari has won five times on the European Tour, most recently the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in England, that tour’s flagship event, in late May. He’s a two-time member of the European Ryder Cup team and is the only Italian player to win his country’s national championship, achieving that feat in 2016.
Molinari’s best finish on the PGA Tour prior to this week was a tie for second at the PGA Championship in 2017 at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. He moved to 42nd in the FedEx Cup standings with his win.
“I was a long way back in the FedEx standings so it’s nice to catch up a little bit,” Molinari said. “Last year I think I missed the Tour Championship by one shot, so that’s the mission this year, and this is a good step forward.”
The win matched the largest margin of victory on the PGA Tour this year, as set by Dustin Johnson at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January.
Woods’ final-round performance featured six birdies, bogeys on the 11th and 13th holes, and a gutsy 16-foot par putt on the closing hole. His result was his second top-5 of the season.
“Overall it was a good solid day,” Woods said. “I thought I might have given myself a chance when I got to the 10 under mark starting the turn, but, evidently, I would have had to shoot, like, 24 on the back nine to have a chance.”
Woods made more than 124 feet of putts in the final round and said afterward that he’s starting the ball on his lines again.
“I missed some putts this week, but that’s okay as long as I’m starting the ball on my lines again and I have the speed,” he said. “That’s something I’ve been missing for a while, really the past two months, so I’m encouraged.”
The PGA Tour heads to West Virginia next week for A Military Tribute at The Greenbriar.
—Field Level Media