Arnold Palmer Invitational: Francesco Molinari fireworks earn two-shot win

Francesco Molinari produced a stunning final round eight-under-par 64
Francesco Molinari produced a stunning final round eight-under-par 64

Francesco Molinari produced a stunning final round to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first solo victory since capturing the Open Championship last July.

Leaderboard

-12 Francesco Molinari

-10 Matthew Fitzpatrick

-9 Rafa Cabrera Bello, Sungjae Im, Tommy Fleetwood

Day four report

Francesco Molinari produced a stunning final round to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first solo victory since capturing the Open Championship last July.

The Italian, who after winning the Claret Jug went on to star for Europe in the Ryder Cup, stormed to an eight-under-par 64 in Orlando, carding four birdies on each side to post 12-under and win by two.

The final birdie came at the last, a grandstand finish from 40-something feet which conjured memories of eight-time winner Tiger Woods or even Palmer himself, and from the moment Molinari’s ball found the hole it seemed clear his total would not be matched.

Molinari said: "I tried to be aggressive from the start and it was nice to see quite a lot of putts dropping... especially for my standards.

"I think it's been the best putting round ever in my career. And it's nice to do it, obviously in those circumstances, at Arnie's place.

"And I don't know, there must be something going on with that line (on 18), because it seems that a lot of guys winning the tournament make that putt."

Overnight leader Matt Fitzpatrick needed to find two shots on the back-nine to force a play-off, but a bogey at the 15th ended his chance. He birdied the next to return to 10-under, which was good enough for second place - his best finish yet on the PGA Tour.

Fitzpatrick had appeared set for a final-round battle with Rory McIlroy which never materialised, as the latter continued his frustrating run of form on Sundays with a level-par 72 which was enough only for a share of sixth.

That left Rafa Cabrera Bello, Sunjae Im and Tommy Fleetwood to tie for third on nine-under, the latter pair carding matching 68s with Cabrera Bello bogeying the last for a round of 69.

Matt Wallace followed an eagle at the 16th with bogeys at the final two holes to sit alongside McIlroy at eight-under, in a group which also included Sung Kang and Keith Mitchell.

Kang and Mitchell did enough to earn invites to the Open Championship alongside Im, where Molinari will defend his title and McIlroy will hope for better luck on home soil at Royal Portrush.

Day three report

England's Matt Fitzpatrick will take a one-shot lead over Rory McIlroy into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida.

Fitzpatrick, 24, is chasing his first PGA Tour win and, after back-to-back 70s in the opening two rounds, posted five birdies and dropped no shots in a 67 on Saturday to move to nine under par.

That is one clear of last year's winner McIlroy, whose 66 saw him shoot up the leaderboard and firmly into contention at Bay Hill.

The Northern Irishman started the day seven shots behind Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley but birdied four of his first six holes and three of the last four.

It was reminiscent of McIlroy's form 12 months ago, when eight birdies from his last 13 holes earned him victory.

That remains his last win, although he has finished in the top five in each of his last four events.

He said of his round on pgatour.com: "Just what I needed. It's really tough out there, difficult conditions.

"I was more in control of my golf ball today, I hit more fairways, and because of that I gave myself more birdie chances and I converted a few of them. So I did everything I needed to do today to get myself back in the golf tournament and (I'm) excited to have another chance tomorrow."

Both Bradley and Fleetwood struggled. The American bogeyed four of the first five holes and eventually signed for a 75 to drop into a tie for sixth, while Fleetwood's day was even worse.

The Englishman did not manage a birdie until the 18th while bogeying the second, eighth and 15th and double-bogeying the 10th in a 76, leaving him four shots off the lead.

A strong English presence at the top of the leaderboard was completed by Matt Wallace, who is in a tie for third on seven under alongside Australia's Aaron Baddeley and American Kevin Kisner.

Day two report

Tommy Fleetwood took advantage of the par-five holes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in spectacular fashion to move into a share of the halfway lead at Bay Hill.

The Englishman boosted his hopes of winning his maiden title on the PGA Tour this weekend with a second round 66 on Friday, taking him to nine under par overall alongside Keegan Bradley.

Fleetwood found succour on the four long holes on the course, picking up six shots, with birdies at the fourth and 16th sandwiching eagles at the sixth and 12th following spectacular approach shots.

He told the PGA Tour website: "Funnily enough when I came off yesterday and I was in the truck with my trainer, just warming down for the day, he asked how my play was and I said 'I could have played the par-fives better'.

"I was level-par with them yesterday. Today I made a much better job of those and you have to.

"On some courses, if you can score on the par-fives, you can shoot a good score, and that's basically where I made up all my numbers."

Fleetwood, who topped the European Tour order of merit in 2017, collected further birdies at the fifth and eighth to offset bogeys at the second and 10th in an eventful round.

While he and Bradley are now four shots clear of the rest of the field, Fleetwood admitted his form around the greens had kept him from dropping out of contention after carding a three under 69 in his opening round.

He added: "I'm leading the tournament now but yesterday, through the first 10 holes, I could have easily been out of the tournament as I was struggling.

"But the short game keeps you in and then all of a sudden you play some good golf and you can build some momentum.

"There's not a golfer in the top five, top 10, top 20 in the world that doesn't have one of the best short games going, so it's pretty important."

Bradley, the 2011 US PGA champion, made six birdies and two bogeys in his 68 to draw level alongside Fleetwood in Florida.

Fleetwood's Ryder Cup partner Francesco Molinari is among six players on five under while English trio Eddie Pepperell, Matt Wallace and Matthew Fitzpatrick are a shot further back.

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, however, tumbled down the leaderboard after following up his opening 68 with a second-round 75 to sit on one under ahead of the weekend.


Day one report

Rafa Cabrera Bello leads the Arnold Palmer Invitational by two shots after the first round at Bay Hill.

The 34-year-old Spaniard made eight birdies on his way to a seven-under-par 65 and a two-shot lead over 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley.

Starting at the 10th, Cabrera Bello made a bright start with birdies on four of his first six holes. His lone bogey came at the first, his 10th, but he responded well with four birdies over the next five holes.

Bradley's 67 sees him on his own in second spot with a one-shot advantage over a host of players tied at four under, including Graeme McDowell and Phil Mickelson, who recovered from a double-bogey at the 10th to shoot 68.

McDowell is one of a number of players hoping to earn an Open Championship place, three of which are on offer this week in Orlando. This year's renewal is being played at Royal Portrush, close to where the 2010 US Open winner was born.

Earlier in the day, Jason Day withdrew from the tournament because of a back injury which casts doubts over his participation in the PLAYERS Championship next week. His exit follows that of Tiger Woods, who pulled out on Monday due to a neck complaint.

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