POTOMAC, MD – JULY 01: Francesco Molinari of Italy reacts after a putt on the seventh green during the final round of the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac on July 1, 2018 in Potomac, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
By Christopher Powers
Five European Tour victories and nearly $8 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour make it odd to describe Francesco Molinari’s performance on Sunday at the Quicken Loans National as a breakout victory. But that’s exactly what his dominating final-round, eight-under 62 was, giving him his first career win in the United States in his 121st career start.
Molinari, 35, whose putting has kept him from raising a few trophies in America previously, could not miss on Sunday, most notably at the par-5 10th, where he dropped a 48-footer for eagle—his longest holed putt of the season—that began a stretch of five holes that he played in six under par. After his fifth straight birdie or better at the 14th, he cruised home with four straight pars, emphatically closing the door on an eight-stroke victory over Ryan Armour. Molinari completed 72 holes in 21-under-par 259.
“Amazing, amazing. I still haven’t realized what happened today,” said Molinari, who matched Dustin Johnson at the Sentry Tournament of Champions for the largest margin of victory on tour this season. “It was a lot easier than I thought. I played great. The start of the back nine was incredible. Really proud of what I’ve done, and I hope a lot of guys back home [in Italy] are watching tonight.”
What makes the win more impressive is that Molinari entered the event with the intention to earn more FedEx Cup points, something he needed to secure a spot in the playoffs at season’s end. It required him to skip the French Open, one of his favorite European Tour events and an tounament that could have helped his Ryder Cup status. But the strategy paid off.
“It’s what I came here for,” he said. “It was not easy to skip Paris and the French Open, but I think in the end I can say it was the right decision.”
Armour’s two-under 68 was good enough for solo second, his secon- best finish this season behind his victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship. It gets him into the Open Championship at Carnoustie, where the 42-year-old will be making his major-championship debut.
Joining Armour in Scotland will be Sung Kang (68), Abraham Ancer (72), Bronson Burgoon (67) and Beau Hossler (68), each by virtue of being the highest finishers at the Quicken Loans who had not already qualified to play at Carnoustie.
Tiger Woods, who carded a final-round 66, finished 10 strokes back in a tie for fourth at 11-under 269. It was another week without that elusive 80th victory, but his finish is a good one in terms of grabbing the World Ranking points he needs to earn a spot at the WGC-Bridgestone in August. That event at Firestone, plus the Open Championship, are the only two events Woods plans to play between now and the PGA Championship. Another good finish, or a win, at Carnoustie should be enough for the 14-time major winner to get into Akron.