The Open 2018: How the leaderboard’s ever-changing jumble of names ended with Francesco Molinari’s on top

From Spieth and Schauffele to Woods and then Molinari - Carnoustie played home to a chaotic last day

Ed Malyon
Carnoustie
Sunday 22 July 2018 19:58
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The Open Championship in numbers

At the end of the Open that had everything emerged the man who nobody saw coming.

Francesco Molinari choked on his words as he accepted the Claret Jug on the 18th green at Carnoustie, a first Major title for him or any Italian golfer and a reward for perseverance after a difficult first two rounds.

But it is the weekends when Majors are won and Molinari didn’t drop a shot after lunchtime on Friday to make a slow, concerted push for the top in a tournament that at times seemed to swirl like a tornado - only for the Italian to prove himself the calm at the eye of the storm. He only became the sole leader for the first time all championship with a birdie on 18, better late than never, and with just four to follow him at that point, only Xander Schauffele could catch him.

But when the 24-year-old Schauffele found the crowd with his approach shot on 17, all the pressure was on the Californian as Molinari watched on from the scorer’s cabin. His chip gave him a chance but his putt for par stopped short to condemn Schauffele, wearing luminous pink, to a bogey that he would ultimately never recover from.

For so long during this wild final day it seemed as if there would be a shootout.

Less than an hour before Molinari won the 147th Open, he was three shots off the tied leaders Schauffele, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner. At one stage we were heading for the biggest play-off the Open has ever seen.

There were six different leaders during a madcap final round and that didn’t include Justin Rose, whose eagle on 14 helped him mount a late run to finish joint for second. Another Englishman, Eddie Pepperell, posted the best round of the day while hungover - by his own admission - on Sunday morning and tied for sixth with Tiger Woods and Kevin Chappell.

The leaderboard was an ever-changing jumble of names as the wind made Sunday’s conditions the most difficult of the weekend. Of the top 32 golfers going into the round that would decide the 147th Open, only three - Rose, McIlroy and Molinari - went under par. Blustery and unforgiving, Carnoustie bit back after a Saturday that saw the lowest scores of the weekend and the three overnight leaders all double bogeyed on the front nine.

It was that sort of day, one where the gusts that blew in off the North Seat didn’t discriminate between the stars like Woods and Spieth or the up-and-comers in Schauffele. Rose and McIlroy were the thoroughbred contenders who came and went, Kisner and Chappell the guys who just wouldn’t give up but emerging from that mess was Molinari.

The Italian’s final round was played out in front of an enormous travelling gallery of fans who thought, who at times truly believed, that they were there to see Tiger Woods win a first major in five years.

Instead they were there to see Molinari win his first ever, a tournament won through hard work and consistency, a triumph of quietness and calm amid a storm of unpredictability.

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