Molinari rallies from four back to win Spanish Open, first win in 18 months

Francesco Molinari at the Spanish Open
Getty Images
Francesco Molinari became the first Italian player to win the Spanish Open on Sunday, thanks to a final-round 65 that was the best score of the week.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Sunday, May 06, 2012 | 1:35 p.m.

SEVILLE, Spain -- Francesco Molinari finally returned to his winning ways -- and he did it with one of the finest rounds of his career.

The Italian Ryder Cup star produced a best-of-the-week 7-under-par 65 to turn a four-stroke deficit into a three-shot win at the Spanish Open on Sunday.

SPANISH OPEN

This tournament marks the 100th anniversary of the first Spanish Open as well as the 40th anniversary of the official launch of the European Tour.

Molinari was ranked 14th in the world when he beat Lee Westwood at the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai nearly 18 months ago, but this was his first success since then.

While he celebrated his third European Tour victory, however, overnight leader Simon Dyson was left to reflect on a 76 that dealt a big blow to his hopes of a Ryder Cup debut in September.

Nobody in the top 50 scored worse on the final day, with Dyson falling all the way into a tie for 12th -- and that after starting with two birdies.

Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen and Spaniards Alejandro Canizares and Pablo Larrazabal tied for second, but Molinari outplayed them. What made it all the more special for him was that the tournament was first staged 100 years ago and came just before the first anniversary of three-time winner Seve Ballesteros' death.

"I knew I was playing well. I just needed some putts to drop," said the 29-year-old Molinari, who moves back into the world's top 30 as he heads back across the Atlantic for this week's Players Championship. "I was also hoping the other guys would not go too far under par and everything worked out perfectly."

He is still not in a qualifying position for this year's Ryder Cup, but added: "I just have to play the same golf a few more weeks and hopefully I will be there.

"Everybody is desperate to make the team, but unfortunately for us there are only 12 spots," he added. "It's going to be hard -- there are a lot of great players in Europe at the moment."

In much easier conditions -- the first three rounds were played in wind and rain -- Dyson made quick amends for his closing double bogey on Saturday by sinking an 18-foot putt on the first and then holing out from the sand at the next. But it all started to go wrong for him again when he ran up a 6 at the long fifth and further bogeys came on the seventh, eighth, 13th, 15th and 17th.

In contrast, Molinari birdied three of the first five, then took the outright lead by two-putting the 545-yard ninth to complete an outward 32. He picked up another shot from 10 feet at the 10th, almost holed for eagle from over 50 feet on the 13th and converted a 15-foot chance on the next.

"The first leaderboard I saw where I was leading was on 12, but they had a few more birdie chances than me and so I knew I needed a couple more," said Molinari.

It was comfortable in the end, though. Kjeldsen, winner of the 2009 Andalucia Open on this course, mixed three birdies with three bogeys on the back nine, while Larrazabal and the fast-finishing Canizares were too far back.

All week the overnight leaders appeared cursed. Shaun Micheel followed his opening 67 with a 77, then Gregory Bourdy went from 66 to 80.

Dyson's score was not as bad as those, but it probably felt worse.