Italy triumph at World Cup
Italy have triumphed on a dramatic final day of seesawying leaders at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.
Brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari savoured a sweet victory after guiding Italy to an historic first World Cup title following a tense three-way final round battle with Ireland and Sweden.
A four-under-par 68 in the final round of alternate shot foursomes and the resulting 29-under par total secured the triumph which the jubilant brothers rank just behind Costantino Rocca’s runner-up finish at The Open in 1995.
In 2005 Edoardo became the first European to win the US Amateur Championship since 1911 before Francesco became the first Italian in 26 years to win his country’s Open championship a year later.
And their latest success follows Italian teenager Matteo Manassero becoming the youngest winner of the British amateur title in June.
“It feels really good. We probably haven’t realised what we have achieved. We just had to hang in there and try to finish it up in the last few holes,” said 27-year-old Inter Milan fan Francesco.
“We were also fortunate to hole a couple of good putts which kept us in front of everybody. We played great golf all week and it feels amazing.”
For elder brother Edoardo, the triumph caps a spectacular year in which he ensured an instant return to the European Tour after setting a Challenge Tour earnings record before winning the high-profile Dunlop Phoenix tournament in Japan the week before heading to China.
“To win this week was always a dream of ours and to win by one shot is even sweeter,” said the 28-year-old Juventus fan.
“To win by one shot against some really good teams like Ireland and Sweden is a great feeling. All of the players involved in the other teams were Ryder Cup players, so I think we probably had not realised what we have done.”
Three consecutive birdie putts from Francesco at the start of the back nine were the key as Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell let slip a three-shot lead.
Ireland had led for just over three rounds over the Olazabal course at Mission Hills Golf Club but failed to fire on the final day.
After Francesco had scrambled from the greenside bunker at the last to secure a par for Italy, McDowell agonisingly missed a birdie chance by inches which would have earned a play-off but capped an error-strewn two under 70.
“It’s been a great week. Myself and Graeme really enjoyed it especially being in the hunt today was a good feeling. But we weren’t able to pull it off, we both played pretty averagely,” said world number 10 McIlroy.
“We shot two under but it could have been a lot better. It was pleasure to play with Graeme and try and win a title with him, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson produced a gallant defence of their title as the Swede’s dropped just one shot all week.
Like Ireland, Sweden had a chance at the last but Stenson’s birdie putt rolled around the cup as a final round three-under 69 proved only good enough for a runner-up finish.
“We had a great week. We played well all week,” said Stenson. “Unfortunately my putter was too cold in the final round, that’s what it comes down to in my book. I had a great putt on the last from 45 feet and it looked in most of the time and went down and came back up again, and that was for the play-off the way it turns out.
“Obviously there is a little bit of disappointment, but I can’t really hold a 45-foot lip-out on the last responsible. I had plenty of chances and I didn’t take them, so it’s basically down to my putting.”
An impressive bogey-free eight under 64 came too late from Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher as England finished fourth, with Japan fifth ahead of Australia.
South Africa, Wales, YE Yang’s Korea, Martin Kaymer’s Germany and USA, who left the best till last with a brilliant bogey-free final round 10-under-par 62 in the traditionally testing alternate shot format, rounded out the top 10.
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