Francesco Molinari clinched an unlikely two-stroke victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he stormed home with a closing eight-under-par 64 in Florida on Sunday on a day where defending champion Rory McIlroy faded in finishing joint sixth.
McIlroy, who began the day at 8-under, one shot behind Matthew Fitzpatrick's lead, finished the day exactly where he started it - 8-under - as he watched victor Francesco Molinari scorch Arnie's place with an 8-under final round to win by two shots.
Northern Ireland's McIlroy birdied four of the first six holes and three of the last our holes while taking his lone bogey at the par-4 eighth.
Molinari tied for the lead with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole, took the lead with a two-putt birdie on the 16th and then set the target with his big birdie on the 18th.
The 36-year-old world number 10, five behind overnight, sank a 44-foot birdie putt at the last for a 12-under total.
Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Nor did he come into this year's event lacking confidence in his game.
Molinari finished at 12-under 276, his fourth victory in his last 17 starts over nine months. McIlroy and last week's victor Keith Mitchell highlighted a group of four at eight under.
"Finally, in 2015, I played here and I realised what I was missing; I got to spend some time with Arnold which was a dream come true for me".
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"I've been in this position before and have experienced winning, five times".
"If you can score on the par-fives, you can shoot a good score and that's basically where I made all my numbers up today", Fleetwood told Golf Channel after making four birdies and two bogeys in addition to his eagles. A quick trip to Disneyland with his wife, Erica, after his second round allowed him to refocus in time to make his charge up the leaderboard on Saturday.
When he won last July at Carnoustie, Molinari had to sit 30 minutes before finding out he had won his first major championship.
"I didn't play this tournament for various reasons and I would always get a letter from Arnold every year saying, "Hoping to see you at Bay Hill", McIlroy said.
It was a tough day at the office for their dad, who not only squandered a chance to claim his first PGA Tour win in three years but also an automatic exemption to this year's British Open - awarded to the top-three finishers not already exempt.
The subject of the Grand Slam was a major focus of McIlroy's media session earlier this week.
Skipped Bay Hill but is in the Players looking to emulate 2008 victory.
Just a poor third-round 76 stopped him from contending against Ryder Cup partner Francesco Molinari, but good T3 finish. "I would have needed to go out there to shoot 67 to better him, which would have been one of the best scores of the day, and anything under 70 out there this afternoon was a great score". It doesn't matter if you're final group, fifth group, it's golf at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter.
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