Francesco Molinari wins Arnold Palmer Invitational
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — British Open champion Francesco Molinari delivered another big moment on the 18th green at Bay Hill, without wearing a red shirt — and leaving the flag stick in the cup. His 45-foot birdie putt capped an 8-under 64 to come from five shots behind Sunday and win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Molinari watched the birdie putt kiss off the pin and into the cup, and the normally reserved Italian raised his fist and hammered it down in celebration, knowing that would make him hard to beat.
He started so far back that Molinari finished nearly two hours before the round ended. It gave him a two-shot lead at 12-under 276, and no one got closer than two shots the rest of the way.
“To do it here at Arnie’s place, knowing my wife and kids are watching from home, it’s very special,” Molinari said.
He won for the fourth time in the last nine months, and in his first start since signing a new equipment deal.
Tiger Woods, who missed this week with a sore neck, has delivered so many birdie putts over the year on the 18th, usually to win and with Palmer on the side of the green waiting to congratulate him. Molinari’s was longer than anything Woods ever made, from a slightly different angle. But he knew the history from so many highlights.
“It’s a pretty iconic putt,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’m the first guy to make it with the flag in, though, so that’s the real difference.”
The new Rules of Golf allow the flag to be left in for putts in the green, and most players leave it there on long putts.
Molinari has four victories worldwide in his last 17 starts over the last nine months.
Matt Fitzpatrick managed only two birdies in his round of 71 and made a 3-foot par putt to finish alone in second.
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The 56-year-old Triplett forced the playoff with a similar left-to-right breaker for birdie on the par-5 18th, then matched Austin with a par on their first extra trip down the tree-lined hole.
Playing in the same group, Triplett and Austin each shot 3-under 68 to finish at 10-under 203 at Newport Beach Country Club.
Jeff Maggert and Scott McCarron finished a stroke out of the playoff. McCarron three-putted the 18th from 30 feet for par and a 68. Maggert shot 65, but couldn’t overcome a four-putt triple bogey on 18 in the first round Friday.
Fran Quinn, three strokes ahead entering the round, had a 74 to tie for fifth with Paul Goydos (68) and Steve Flesch (69).
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Justin Harding birdied three of the last four holes to win the Qatar Masters by two strokes for his first European Tour title.
The South African shot 6-under 66 71 at Doha Golf Club for a 13-under 275 total, ahead of a packed group in second which included compatriots George Coetzee (68), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (68), Erik Van Rooyen (70) and overnight leader Oliver Wilson of England. Wilson shot 71.
Harding, who won twice on the Asian Tour and twice on the Sunshine Tour in 2018, is projected to move just outside the world’s top 50 when the ranking is updated on Monday. That will get him into the WGC-Match Play in three weeks, boosting his bid to get into the top 50 by April for an invitation to the Masters.
“It was a really good day, hugely rewarding,” the 33-year-old Harding said. “I feel as though I’ve been putting in a lot of hard graft trying to improve my game to get to those next levels and to finally notch one on the European Tour is awesome … I’m looking forward to playing in some bigger events and keeping the form going.”
NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) — Alana Uriell won the Symetra Tour’s season-opening SKYiGOLF Championship in her professional debut, beating Julieta Granada and Lauren Coughlin with a 12-foot eagle putt on the first hole of a playoff.
Uriell birdied the par-5 18th in regulation for a 5-under 67 to match Coughlin (66) and Granada (67) at 12-under 276 at Charlotte Harbor National. Coughlin closed birdie-eagle, and Granada birdied the final two.
“I’ve been nose-to-the-grindstone all season, practicing hard and hoping it would be enough,” Uriell said. “Truly, it was.”
The 22-year-old former Arkansas player from Carlsbad, California, earned $37,500. The top 10 at the end of the season will earn LPGA Tour cards.
Alexa Pano, the 14-year-old amateur from Lake Worth, Florida, who has tied for the third-round lead, closed with a 73 to tie for eighth at 7 under.
Kazuma Kobori, a 17-year-old amateur playing his home course, closed with a 3-under 69 to win the SEC New Zealand PGA Championship for his first victory on the PGA Tour of Australia. Kobori finished at 21-under 267 on the Pegasus Golf and Sports Club for a four-shot victory over David Smail. … JC Ritchie won for the second time in two weeks on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa by closing with a 7-under 65 and beating Steve Surry in a playoff to capture the Limpopo Championship. … Meghan MacLaren of England closed with a 2-under 69 for a three-shot victory in the Women’s New South Wales Open on the Ladies European Tour. … Mamiko Higa closed with a 4-over 76 and still won by three shots in the Daikin Orchid Ladies Golf Tournament on the Japan LPGA.