Francesco Molinari storms to Arnold Palmer Invitational victory

Lynette Rowe
March 13, 2019

The battle between the Englishman and the Irishman was won by an Italian. He had gone out on a tough day and performed at a level no one came close to matching.

The reigning Open champion won the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational in the exact same manner as his Ryder Cup teammate did in 2018 - with an 8-under 64 in the final round that included a long birdie at the 72nd hole.

With the firm fast greens again hard to hold at Bay Hill, Molinari, European Tour Golfer of the Year in 2018, holed from thick rough behind the green at the eighth for his fourth birdie of the day.

Sweeping left-to-right from just inside 44 feet away, Molinari, who went on to win the event, hit the putt with the ideal amount of pace to put him in position for his third PGA Tour title in the last eight months.

Molinari, normally known for his roped irons and tight wedges, actually finished with much better driving and putting numbers than he did with his irons.

After holing the putt, he went to the locker room and watched on TV to see if his 12-under score would hold up.

"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.

The world number six had a fruitless day on the greens, making just one putt outside 10 feet compared to five (and a chip in) from Molinari. "But obviously when you get it done, at the end it's a great feeling".

He all but sealed the win with a 44-foot birdie putt across the green at the last and although many of his nearest challengers still had several holes to play they faced a tough task to catch the leader and so it would prove. He gained 4.2 strokes against the field with his putting on Sunday.

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Molinari finished at 12-under 276, his fourth victory in his last 17 starts over nine months.

"It was an unbelievable round from Francesco to shoot what he did, " Rory McIlroy said.

"It's never easy, but I think what makes the difference is my mental approach is a lot better than what it was three, four years ago and I practice at home to do this sort of stuff in tournaments".

Harding was three shots off the lead at the start of the day and although he birdied three of the first four holes, bogeys at the sixth and seventh looked to have derailed his title challenge.

My Sundays haven't been what I would have liked. "That's the great thing about golf, you don't have to wait too long to get back on the horse", he said. "So, no, I'm happy with everything".

England's Matthew Fitzpatrick, who began the day five shots ahead of Molinari, managed to scratch out a 1-under par 71 to finish runner-up two shots back at 10-under par.

'It's become something of an iconic green with all that's happened there, and I'm glad to add to it, ' he said. McIlroy and last week's victor Keith Mitchell highlighted a group of four at eight under.

On a leaderboard dominated by internationals, only one of the leading nine players was American but none would be Australians after a late stumble from Aaron Baddeley cost him a chance of a very high finish.

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