Francesco Molinari storms to Arnold Palmer Invitational victory

Francesco Molinari right of Italy leaves the first green after making a putt for birdie during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament Sunday

Francesco Molinari right of Italy leaves the first green after making a putt for birdie during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament Sunday

Francesco Molinari fired an impressive eight-under 64 to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by two strokes on Sunday.

Palmer no doubt would have been impressed by Molinari's Sunday 64, and he would have been proud of the way Bay Hill played all week. Molinari's was longer than anything Woods ever made, from a slightly different angle. And while it capped off an 8-under 64 and eventually gave Molinari a two-shot victory, the British Open champion had to wait almost two hours to see if his score would hold up.

Matt Fitzpatrick managed only two birdies in his round of 1-under 71 and made a 3-foot par putt to finish alone in second. "There's no way that he's knocked it to six feet on every hole, the greens were so firm and fast".

And with only the top 50 after the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play on March 31 exempt for the Masters, a solid week in Jacksonville would be welcomed. The tournament organizers called the 2019 field one of the deepest that they have seen. "So good golf is good golf".

Earlier in his career, Molinari, admittedly, lacked the killer instinct to deliver such a final-round performance. His five-shot comeback was the largest at Bay Hill since Woods in 2009, which he won with a birdie from 15 feet on the 18th hole.

Only three of his eight birdie putts were inside 10 feet. After the putt kissed the flagstick and found the cup, the API's eventual victor wagged his index finger to the sky and then performed a fist pump.

"Yeah, it's a pretty iconic putt", said Molinari.

"It's great, to do it here, to get it done here at this place knowing that my wife and the kids were watching back home, it's just a special, special one", Molinari said of his victory. "I think sort of protecting my position a little bit".

A tap-in birdie at the par-five 16th soon after for Molinari put him ahead, and he set the clubhouse target just two holes later with his enormous putt on the final hole.

The other two spots went to Sungjae Im, the 20-year-old South Korean who closed with a 68 and tied for third; and Honda Classic victor Keith Mitchell, who made eight birdies in his final round of 66 to tie for sixth.

2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational scores, grades: Francesco Molinari wins with final-round 64

He posted a 12-under 276 total, which at the time he finished was good for a two-stroke lead over Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick, who had completed 11 holes.

The clubs are good for me and I showed it this week.

"And I don't know, there must be something going on with that line (on 18), because it seems that a lot of guys winning the tournament make that putt".

"I was saying before, it's probably my best putting round ever".

Molinari has four victories worldwide in his last 17 starts over the last nine months, and the Italian pointed to the first of those victories for sparking his turnaround. He played in the final round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth tied with McIlroy, closed with a 68 and won by two.

"I've been nose-to-the-grindstone all season, practicing hard and hoping it would be enough", Uriell said.

In truth, he knows that had he birdied all the par-fives instead of just one of them (a wedge to 10 feet followed by two putts at the 16th), he might have been in the mix right to the end.

"Finding motivation was easy after previous year", Molinari said. "I started building my confidence and seeing I could get it done".

When he won last July at Carnoustie, Molinari had to sit 30 minutes before finding out he had won his first major championship.

In October, Molinari became the first European to go 5-0 in the Ryder Cup during his team's rout of the Americans in Paris. And he delivered a masterpiece at Arnie's place.

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