Francesco Molinari becomes first-ever Italian to win a major / AS IT HAPPENED

Italy’s Francesco Molinari wins The British Open after an extraordinary final round full of drama, fireworks and heartbreak.

Francesco Molinari has become the first-ever Italian golfer to win a major.

Playing alongside Tiger Woods and playing what is arguably the toughest Open golf course, Molinari was incredible, particularly on the greens.

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A stunning bogey-free 2-under par round of 70 in strong winds saw Molinari claim the Claret Jug by two strokes.

Here is how it happened… as we took notes as the drama unfolded.

The morning groups had the best of the conditions at Carnoustie on Sunday but only one player really made the most of them.

As all Australian hopes disappeared with Adam Scott making early bogeys, England’s Eddie Pepperell carded five birdies in his 4-under par 67 round and got into the clubhouse at 5-under par.

With the leaders just about to tee off and the wind picking up, dust swirling about Carnoustie, no one really expected Pepperell’s four round total to be good enough to win or force a playoff.

But this major had one final act and it was jam packed full of drama, fireworks and heartbreak.

Tiger Woods’ arrival to the first tee were met with huge roars. Woods hadn’t been seen at an Open Championship since 2015, and not among the leaders since 2013.

Playing alongside Woods was Francesco Molinari. The 35-year-old Italian was the most in-form golfer prior to The Open. Two wins and two second place finishes in his last five starts had many wondering if Molinari could become the first-ever Italian to win The Open Championship.

Kevin Kisner, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth began their day tied for the lead at 9-under par.

Kisner gave away a few shots early after finding one of Carnoustie’s nasty fairway bunkers. Spieth and Schauffele traded pars for several holes before both made bogeys at the fifth hole. Golf fans now wondered if Woods was destined to grace the top of a major leaderboard once more.

A bogey the following hole to Schauffele, and a double-hogey to Spieth after taking a penalty for an unplayable lie and suddenly it was real.

Disbelief.

Tiger Woods was sole leader of a major championship once again.

And not just leading either. Woods was leading and was clearly looking the most comfortable player on a very windy Carnoustie Golf Links.

But no sooner than had Woods taken the lead, he promptly gave it up. Not even a bounce off a spectators head and back towards the green could avert a double-bogey at the 11th.

Spieth and Molinari were back in the lead. And Kisner and Chappell joined them.

A four-way tie for the lead at 6-under par. Pepperall’s score of 5-under par was now looking very good.

Justin Rose, barely seen on the TV coverage then almost holed out for albatross at the 14th hole. The tap-in eagle got Rose to 5-under par, a shot behind the mass of leaders.

Schauffele and Spieth were 19 minutes behind and were put on the clock by tournament officials. Schauffele looked to enjoy the pace and made a birdie at the 10th hole to make it a five-way tie for the lead.

This was intoxicating, captivating golf. Major golf.

Many pundits wondered if McIlroy had the nerve to make a run at the lead on the back nine. A short missed putt at the 12th saw the Northern Irishman drop to 4-under par, two behind the leaders.

But the downwind par-5 14th hole had everyone licking their lips. McIlroy dropped a huge bomb to make eagle and storm into a six-way tie for the lead.

Meanwhile Woods followed his double-bogey with a bogey and was now two behind the leaders. A careless approach to the downwind 14th hole saw Woods deciding to pitch from the green to get close enough to the hole for a look at birdie.

The pitch was a poor one but the 14-time major champion was not done with yet. Woods holed the putt for birdie to get back to within one shot of the lead.

Molinari was the most remarkable, unremarkable of the leaders. The in-form Italian made 13 consecutive pars to stay in a tie for the lead and with Woods fading, he now looked the most comfortable of anyone in a tie for the lead.

And no sooner had Woods made his putt for birdie, Molinari made his and took control of The Open, taking the lead at 7-under par.

Justin Rose, had stood on the 18th tee on Friday needing a birdie to make the cut. He did just that.

Fast-forward two days and Rose made another birdie at the 18th hole to take the clubhouse lead at 6-under par, leaving Pepperell to put the clubs into the car.

As six-players at 6-under par jostled to make a birdie, Molinari kept holing three, four, five-foot putts for par to stay one stroke ahead of the pack.

It was the 24-year-old Xander Schauffele who was first to jump out of the pack. A tap-in birdie after lipping out his eagle putt now so Molinari and Schauffele in a tie for the lead.

McIlroy joined Rose in the clubhouse at 6-under par but was it going to be good enough for a playoff? Would Molinari AND Schauffele drop a shot over the difficult closing holes at Carnoustie?

Everyone expected Spieth to join them as he lined up a four-foot birdie putt moments later. But Spieth couldn’t buy a birdie and he missed yet another birdie attempt. The same thing happened at the 16th hole and Spieth, sporting a very tight new haircut was left trying to tear out whatever hair he had left.

The par-3 16th hole is a beast. At 248-yards, golfers are hitting long irons into the green and ranked the second most difficult hole on the golf course.

Schauffele almost made a birdie after hitting a 5-iron to 10-feet at the very difficult par-3 16th hole. The tricky, downhill putt just missed to the left. Seconds afterwards, Molinari grabbed his chance to grab the outright lead once again.

Woods stuck his approach to the 18th to 8-feet and Molinari, undeterred and unintimidated by Tiger’s presence hit his approach inside to four feet.

Woods, who showed glimpses of his past greatness missed the putt he would have gobbled up for dinner 10 years ago.

Molinari made his putt and completed one of the most competent displays of pressure putting we’ve seen in some time.

The clubhouse lead was Molinari’s at 8-under par with just Kisner, Chappell, Spieth and Schauffele left to play the 17th and 18th.

Schauffele had the best chance to tie Molinari but a missed par putt at the 17th hole meant the American was left to hole out from the fairway at the 18th. Not surporsingly, it didn’t happen.

And Molinari was claimed his first-ever major. Becoming the first-ever Italian golfer to win a major.

One more time… goodnight.

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