As Rory McIlroy suffered yet another Sunday let-down, Francesco Molinari won his first title since the Open Championship last July courtesy of a brilliant round of eight-under at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Starting five off the pace, the Italian displayed all the class he showed at Carnoustie – and, indeed, at the Ryder Cup two months later when becoming the first European to win all five matches – to leap from 17th to 12-under for a two-shot victory.
Matt Fitzpatrick, the 24-year-old who led overnight, came second after a 71 for his best finish on the PGA Tour, with fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood in a tie for third following 68. Like everyone, they had to bow to the Molinari mastery, as he matched McIlroy’s closing 64 of a year ago.
“That was probably the best putting round of my life,” Molinari said, after holing a 45-footer on the famous 18th green. “They say the next win after your first major is important and this feels great.”
For McIlroy it was a familiar feeling. There he was in the final pairing of a big event and there he was again falling short. This was the ninth consecutive time the 29-year-old had been in the marquee group and not prevailed and as the defending champion it means his winless run stretches more than a year.