Golf: ‘Best putting round ever’ lifts Molinari to Bay Hill victory

(Reuters) – Francesco Molinari clinched an unlikely two-stroke victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he stormed home with a closing eight-under-par 64 in Florida on Sunday.

Mar 10, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Francesco Molinari hits his tee shot on the 14 hole during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The British Open champion enjoyed his “best putting day ever” which he capped off by sinking a 45-foot birdie at the difficult par-four 18th at Bay Hill in Orlando.

The usually low-key Italian raised his right arm in the air with his index finger outstretched to hail his final putt.

Molinari posted a 12-under 276 total and, after a two-hour wait in the clubhouse, celebrated his third PGA Tour victory when none of the overnight frontrunners could match his total.

English overnight leader Matthew Fitzpatrick shot 71 to claim second place on 10-under.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy carded 72 for equal sixth, four strokes behind Molinari.

“I thought there was an outside chance and just started making putts,” 36-year-old Molinari told NBC television about his mindset after he had teed off five strokes from the lead.

“Probably have to say my best putting round ever.

“I don’t know if I could have done a lot more than that to be honest.”

Asked what had elevated his game over the past year, he said confidence had a lot to do with it.

“In the summer I went through a run of golf that was hard to believe, even for me.

“The winter came and it was time to find some motivation, which wasn’t extremely easy after last year. The smart thing to do was to take a long break.”

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris

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