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Francesco Molinari wins Open as Tiger Woods falls short

Francesco Molinari at the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie.

By Rob Hodgetts, CNN

Francesco Molinari became the first Italian man to win a major with victory in the British Open on an absorbing final day at Carnoustie.

The 35-year-old held off an early surge from Tiger Woods and overhauled defending champion Jordan Spieth to clinch the historic Claret Jug Sunday.

Molinari, the world No.15, kept his nerve in sun-baked but breezy conditions on Scotland’s east coast to win by two shots.

Playing alongside Woods, Molinari fired a round of 69 to finish eight under ahead of four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, Americans Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele and England’s former US Open champion Justin Rose.

“It’s just disbelief, to be honest,” Molinari told reporters. “It’s amazing to sit here with the Claret Jug.

“I look at all the names on the jug and they’re the best golfers in history — it’s incredible for someone like me coming from Italy, which is not really a major golf country. It’s been an incredible journey.”

Woods’ fairytale of a 15th major and first for 10 years looked a very distinct possibility when he took the lead with nine holes to go, but the former world No.1 struggled over the back nine to fall away.

The 42-year-old Woods, back at the peak of the game after multiple back surgeries, shot 71 to end five under with fellow American Kevin Chappell and England’s Eddie Pepperell.

Spieth was tied for the lead with Schauffele and Kisner overnight but slipped away with a closing 76 to end four under.

Molinari’s maiden major victory came in his 36th major, a year on from missing the cut in the Open at Royal Birkdale.

A two-time European Ryder Cup player, he has been in fine form this season with a first PGA Tour win — and by eight shots — and victory in the European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA event at Wentworth.

His previous best finish in a major was tied second at last year’s US PGA Championship, won by Justin Thomas.

Molinari teamed up with his brother Edoardo in the Ryder Cup in 2010 and scored a half point against Woods to secure outright victory in his singles match in the 2012 competition in Chicago, dubbed the “Miracle of Medinah” after Europe fought back to win from a seemingly impossible position.