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Good golf is good golf: Rory McIlroy optimistic despite more Sunday frustration as Molinari seals win with monster putt

 

Rory McIlroy. Photo: AP
Rory McIlroy. Photo: AP

Rory McIlroy suffered another final day fade as reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari spectacularly claimed the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Florida last night.

His 45-foot birdie putt capped off an 8-under 64 to come from five shots behind at the outset.

Molinari watched the birdie putt kiss off the pin and into the cup, and the normally reserved Italian raised his fist and hammered it down in celebration, knowing that it would make him hard to beat.

Eventual winner Molinari started so far back that he finished nearly two hours before the round ended. It gave him a two-shot lead at 12-under 276, and no-one got closer than two shots the rest of the way.

"To do it here at Arnie's place, knowing my wife and kids are watching from home, it's very special," Molinari said. "It was one of my best putting rounds ever, the putting was just incredible."

Defending champion McIlroy started the final round one shot behind and never got anything going in his round of 72.

Bidding to make the first successful defence of a tournament in his career, his closing round saw him finish in tied-sixth, four shots adrift of Molinari.

An early birdie putt - from 28 feet on the second - proved to be a false dawn for McIlroy, who briefly looked set to challenge only to fail to get any forward momentum going.

The 29-year-old has now played in the final pairing nine times in the last 13 months, failing to win any of those tournaments.

"My Sundays haven't been what I would have liked, but I'm putting myself in that position, so good golf is good golf, I keep saying that, at the end of the day,” he said.

“It was a tough day, tough to get it close to the hole. I feel like I really didn't play that badly. I missed a couple of shots, but I felt like I was hitting good shots to 30 feet all day and it's hard to sort of shoot a score.”

McIlroy doesn't have long to wait to get back into contention as he tees it up at TPC Sawgrass this week in The Players Championship.

“I'm playing well, I'm getting myself into contention every week, (I need to) continue to do that going into next week. That's the great thing about golf, you don't have to wait too long to get back on the horse,” he said.

“So I'm happy with everything, I just think today I could have played the par fives better, but really apart from that it was an unbelievable round from Francesco to shoot what he did.

“I would have needed to go out there to shoot 67 to better him, which would have been one of the best scores of the day, and anything under 70 out there this afternoon was a great score.”

Graeme McDowell will have to wait a little longer to book his ticket home for The Open after he failed to win one of three spots on offer at Bay Hill.

Having learned the game at Royal Portrush as a member of Rathmore, the 2010 US Open champion (39) was desperate to clinch a top 10 spot in Orlando and one of three precious places in the game's oldest Major.

But while he was just two shots outside the top-10 starting yesterday's final round, he got off to a horrific start and carded a six-over-par 78 to finish 54th on two-over. Third round leader Matthew Fitzpatrick finished alone in second.

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