'Disbelief': Italian golfer upstages Spieth, Woods to create British Open history

Darren Walton
'Disbelief': Italian golfer upstages Spieth, Woods to create British Open history

Francesco Molinari has held off a cast of golfing giants including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Jordan Spieth to become the first Italian winner of the British Open in 158 years.

Playing alongside the resurgent Woods in the final round, Molinari carded a nerveless two-under-par 69 to win the Claret Jug by two shots from McIlroy (70), English hope Justin Rose (69) and Americans Xander Schauffele (74) and Kevin Kisner (74).

With a brilliant birdie at the last, 35-year-old Molinari's eight-under 72-hole total of 276 eclipsed Padraig Harrington's Carnoustie tournament record score from 2007 by a stroke and kept some of the sport's biggest names at bay.

"It's just disbelief. To look at the names on that Claret Jug, obviously, what can you say? It's the best golfers in history, and to be on there, it's incredible," Molinari said.

"From someone like me coming from Italy, not really a major golfing country, it's been an incredible journey."

Bidding for his first major in 10 years, Woods hit the outright lead midway through a fascinating final round before a double-bogey on the 11th and bogey on the 12th cruelled his hopes.

The 14-times major winner eventually signed for a 71 and a share of sixth at five under with Englishman Eddie Pepperell - who claimed the clubhouse lead early in the day with a last-round low 67 - and fellow American Kevin Chappell (73).

Francesco Molinari created history with his victory. Pic: Getty

Spieth, who started the day in a three-way share of the lead with Kisner and Shauffele, crashed with a 76 to wind up equal ninth a further stroke back with US countrymen Tony Finau (71) and last year's runner-up Matt Kuchar (72).

Without a bogey in his last two rounds on the windswept Scottish links, Molinari was a worthy winner who arrived at Carnoustie with two victories and two seconds in his past five starts this season.

But, for much of the afternoon it looked as though everything was falling into place for Woods to pull off a barely believable victory, his first anywhere since 2013 - and first major since the 2008 US Open.

Birdies at the fourth and sixth took Woods to the turn in 34 and, with the leaders crumbling, gave the 42-year-old a one-shot lead over Molinari and Spieth, who double-bogeyed the sixth after hitting his second shot into a gorse bush.

But just when one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time seemed on the cards, Woods failed to pull off a risky flop shot to get out of trouble on 11.

As Woods' challenge stalled, the drama was just beginning elsewhere, with McIlroy following birdies on the ninth and 11th with an eagle from 35 feet on the 14th.

That vaulted McIlroy into a six-way tie for the lead and Rose joined the expanding group on six under with a tap-in birdie on 18, two days after he needed a birdie on the same hole just to make the cut.

Molinari broke out of the pack with his first birdie of the day on the par-five 14th and up ahead McIlroy had to settle for joining Rose in the clubhouse lead after failing to birdie the last.

Schauffele, who had struggled to the turn in 40, birdied the 10th and 14th to join Molinari in the lead, but bogeyed the 17th and was unable to find the magical finish required on the last to deny Molinari a deserving victory.