A STUNNING 8-under round of 64 by Open Champion Francisco Molinari denied Yorkshire’s Matthew Fitzpatrick of the glory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
The Sheffield golfer had taken a one shot lead into the final round, where his playing partner was reigning tournament champion Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman finished with a final round level par 72 and a tie for 6th place, but Fitzpatrick could only manage two birdies against one bogey in a final round of 71 to finish on -10, two shots behind Molinari.
Still, there was some consolation for the 24-year-old five-time European Tour winner with a runners-up cheque for nearly $1 million – a whopping $982,800!
It was a great result for his new partnership with Billy Foster – the pair are pictured above –the Bingley St Ives member and veteran tour caddy, who split up with Lee Westwood ahead of the 2019 season.
Fitz drove well enough in the final round with none better than his effort on the treacherous 18th, which left him having to hole out his second over water to tie Molinari who had been in the clubhouse for well over an hour.
As happened so often on final day greens where the pin positions were tucked away, Fitz’s approach ended up safe but wide, and when his birdie putt was left four feet short on a tricky break, his nerves were tested if he was to avoid dropping into a four way tie for second. He rolled it in.
It summed up his day, where too many putts didn’t quite have the pace to threaten the hole and nothing was dropping. McIlroy was longer but also typically wayward at times, and his short game was fully tested to keep him at par.
Molinari meanwhile just had one of ‘those’ days where he could do now wrong, holing out from what looked an impossible lie, and on the 18th sinking a really long, snaking birdie putt.
Afterwards, Fitz said he was really pleased with the week and disappointed that he’d lost by two shots, adding that Molinari must have putted fantastically, given the pin positions and the hard and fast greens. “He didn’t shoot 64 by hitting all his irons into six feet!” he said.
He felt only his tee shot on the 12th was a poor shot and that if anything he “probably played too safe”. But while regretting not being more aggressive, he added: “If you drop two shots out here you drop 10 places, that’s the way it is.”