Francesco Molinari wins The Open after holding off Tiger Woods, Justin Rose & Rory McIlroy

By Jonathan JurejkoBBC Sport
The 147th Open Championship - final leaderboard
-8 F Molinari (Ita); -6 J Rose (Eng), R McIlroy (NI), K Kisner (US), X Schauffele (US); -5 E Pepperell (Eng), T Woods (US), K Chappell (US); -4 T Finau (US), M Kuchar (US), J Spieth (US)
Selected others: -3 T Fleetwood (Eng); -2 J Day (Aus), A Scott (Aus), Z Johnson (US); -1 P Mickelson (US), B Langer (Ger), D Willett (Eng)

Francesco Molinari has become the first Italian to win a major, holding off a pack of star names to claim The Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Molinari produced a two-under final round of 69 in windy conditions on the Scottish links to finish eight under.

He finished two ahead of four players, including home favourites Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, tied on six under.

Tiger Woods finished five under after leading midway through the round, with Jordan Spieth on four under.

Molinari, 35, emerged from a six-way tie for the lead, when all the players were either on the back nine or in the clubhouse, to lift the Claret Jug.

The Europe Ryder Cup player started the final day three shots adrift of overnight leaders Spieth, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele, but maintained composure while his rivals all dropped shots in a thrilling battle for the lead.

"It is absolutely amazing," Molinari said. "I think it will take a long time to sink in. It has been a great week.

"The course bit me a few times in the first two days, but to go bogey-free around this track at the weekend is incredible."

Molinari takes form onto the biggest stage

Molinari, ranked 15th in the world, had been tipped by a number of experts before the tournament as a player to watch at Carnoustie - and he proved them right with an assured display over the four days.

Despite a modest Open record, he had been backed on the strength of a fine few months that saw him claim the PGA Championship at Wentworth - his biggest win on the European Tour - and his maiden PGA Tour victory at the Quicken Loans Classic.

Steady opening rounds of 70 and 72 took him into the weekend, before a stunning 65 on Saturday propelled him into contention.

Molinari stressed the importance of making pars on Sunday in an interview after his third round, and he fulfilled his target by beginning with 13 pars in succession in testing conditions.

That steady sequence was ended with a birdie on the par-five 14th, before a glorious approach on the 18th allowed him to pick up another shot.

After finishing his round, Molinari looked anxious as he waited in the scorer's cabin, watching nearest remaining challenger Schauffele bogey the 17th.

The 24-year-old American needed to eagle the last hole to force a play-off, but his approach landed short, allowing Molinari to celebrate with his caddie and wife.

Woods back among the world's best

Woods is a global star who has transcended the sport since he won his first major at the 1997 Masters aged 21.

Thirteen more majors followed over the next 11 years as the American looked on course to break Jack Nicklaus' tally of 18 major victories - a record that has stood since 1986.

But his career derailed when a series of personal scandals were followed by a serious back injury, leaving many questioning whether he would ever return to anywhere near his best.

Ranked 650th at the start of the year, Woods has answered that positively with his lowest 72-hole total at a major since the 2012 Open.

Woods' surge was accompanied by fervent support on the Scottish links, with a buzz of excitement following the 42-year-old around the course and on social media. His challenge helped attract a record Carnoustie crowd of 172,000 attend over the week.

Two birdies on the front nine on Sunday, coupled with dropped shots for Spieth and Schauffele, helped him take the outright lead of a major for the first time since his peak years.

But a double bogey at the 11th derailed his bid for a first major since the 2008 US Open and, although a birdie on the 14th briefly reignited his hopes, he had to settle for a share of sixth place after signing for a level-par 71.

Rose and McIlroy come close

England's Rose and Northern Ireland's McIlroy were rated as the leading home hopes going into the 147th Championship and still had outside chances when they stepped onto the first tee on Sunday.

Rose only just made the cut by sinking a birdie on the 18th in Friday's second round, but a career-best round at a major of 64 on Saturday gave him hope of a first Open title.

Meanwhile, McIlroy started the day a shot better off at five under as he aimed to claim his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship.

Both players appeared to have lost their chances of threatening the top of the leaderboard until they each made an eagle at the par-five 14th - Carnoustie's easiest hole - to move back into the reckoning.

Rose also birdied the last to finish on six under, a score that was matched by McIlroy shortly afterwards with pars on the final four holes.

A play-off looked their best hope of an unlikely success - until Molinari also took advantage of the 14th to take control.

Another Englishman, Tommy Fleetwood, moved to six under with a birdie on the first, only to drop four shots in three holes before the turn and end up three under for the tournament with a two-over 73.

Fleetwood finished two shots adrift of compatriot Eddie Pepperell, who shot a 67 - the lowest round of the final day - to earn his best finish at a major.

Pepperell, 27, was set to commentate for BBC Radio 5 live before claiming a late qualification spot, going on to finish in sixth place and earning prize money of £287,000.

Overnight leaders Spieth and Schauffele fade

Defending champion Spieth was looking to become the first man since Padraig Harrington in 2008 to win back-to-back Open titles - which he also achieved on Royal Birkdale and Carnoustie.

The 24-year-old American was the favourite to reclaim the Claret Jug going into the final round, holding a share of the lead at nine under with Schauffele.

Both players dropped three shots between the fifth and seventh holes, though, dealing a major blow to their chances of victory.

Spieth dropped two more shots on the back nine to card a five-over 76, while Schauffele signed for a three-over 74.

"We were in the strangest spots possible on the golf course, where we didn't think we would be," said Schauffele.

"Every time I looked up at the leaderboard, there's four, five, six guys in the lead, and five, six guys one back.

"I figured looking at the board isn't going to do me any good and I was just happy to claw my way back in a little bit."

'Hottest player on the planet!' - golfers react to Molinari's win

Sergio Garcia congratulates Francesco Molinari
Former Masters champion Sergio Garcia tweeted his congratulations to Molinari
Justin Thomas congratulates Francesco Molinari
World number two Justin Thomas saw Molinari's quality up close in the opening two rounds
Thomas Bjorn congratulates Francesco Molinari
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn was pleased to see one of his key players maintain their fine form
Branden Grace congratulates Francesco Molinari
South African Branden Grace, who shot a low round of 62 at The Open last year, praised Molinari's game
Ross Fisher congratulates Francesco Molinari
England's Ross Fisher also showed how popular Molinari is among his peers


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