Brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari won a dramatic three-way final round tussle with Sweden and Ireland to claim a first World Cup of Golf for Italy by one stroke on Sunday.
THE MOLINARI BROTHERS Picture © Getty Images
The duo found their putting touch on the back nine as their rivals faltered to finish with a four-under-par 68 for a total of 29-under for the $5.5 million tournament at Mission Hills.
Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, who had led all week after an opening 58, carded an error-strewn 70 to share second with defending champion Swedes Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson, who shot a 69.
Edoardo leapt around the 18th green after securing victory with a two-foot par putt before embracing his younger brother — the first siblings to lift the John Jay Hopkins trophy in the 55 versions of the event.
“It’s amazing, we don’t really have any words,” 27-year-old Francesco, who will share a cheque for $1.7 million with his brother, said in a greenside TV interview.
“It’s been really tough all day, we were playing against some of the best golfers in the world. It was really tough until the last green. But it’s even better when it’s like this.”
Ireland had started the final day foursomes with a one-shot cushion but were drawn into the chasing pack when world number 10 McIlroy went into the trees with his drive at the third.
The Ulstermen looked to have recovered their nerves, however, with a string of four birdies from the fourth to surge three shots clear.
Sweden, who shot a final-round 63 to win last year, had picked up two shots before dropping their first and only shot of the tournament at the eighth.
Calamity struck for the Irish around the turn, however, when they chalked up two more bogeys at the eighth and 10th holes, the latter when McIlroy missed a two-foot par putt.
The Molinaris, meanwhile, had gone through 10 holes at a steady one-under before three successive birdie putts from Francesco, the second a curling beauty from 30 feet, broke the three-way tie then put the Italians ahead by two.
The Swedes and Irish cut the lead to one shot with birdies at the 15th and there was more drama at the 18th.
First Stenson’s birdie putt tracked around the lip of the hole and out and then Edoardo’s second shot went into a greenside bunker, while the Irish carved out a birdie chance.
World number 37 Francesco, however, came up with a beautiful sand wedge to two feet and, when McDowell’s putt came up short, Edoardo had a simple shot for championship.
Francesco had seven top 10s finishes on the European Tour this year, while his brother Edoardo, the 2005 U.S. Amateur champion, was the Challenge Tour champion.
After his victory in a playoff over Karlsson at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan last week, 28-year-old Edoardo has now won four of his last six tournaments.
England’s Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher finally lived up to their billing as one of the pre-tournament favourites with a 64 for fourth place on 26-under.
World number eight Sergio Garcia missed a two-foot putt as Spain finished a miserable week with a double bogey that left them 22 shots behind the winners with only the hapless Scottish duo (78) behind in 28th and last place.