The final day of The Open 2018 provided as dramatic and enthralling an afternoon of sport that anyone could ever wish to see. No one with any remote interest in golf could take their eyes off it for at least 3 hours and it proved once again the beauty and enduring quality of this fantastic game.
It ebbed and flowed wildly, was completely unpredictable, had numerous different leaders throughout the afternoon and the destination of the famous old claret jug was not known until the final hole. It was that good.
Add further to the occasion that the leading protagonists in the final mix included some of the world’s leading and most popular players, including Jordan Speith, Rory Mcllroy, Justin Rose and the revitalised Tiger Woods, it made for even more drama and excitement. It really was quite something.
In the final denouement it was the popular Italian, Francesco Molinari, who took the spoils and no-one could deny that he was a deserving champion and his victory was fully merited.
To coin a popular phrase, he kept his head when all around him were losing theirs, and that is why he won. He held numerous clutch putts on the back nine and stole a couple of birdies too to end up with a bogey free final round including 16 pars. That was ultimately what made the difference, consistency when compared to the fluctuating fortunes of some of his closest rivals towards the top of the leaderboard.
Molinari was quite simply majestic, measured and meticulous.
The day had been set up for one of the overnight leaders, multiple major winner and last year’s champion, Jordan Speith to cruise through and retain his title. Whilst a special talent, he struggled from the start, never found his rhythm, spluttered and ultimately succumbed. It was sad to see.
As for the seemingly reborn Tiger Woods, he was at times terrific and was in with a very real chance. He tore it up and took the lead at the turn, but tailed off after a terrible chip and his chance was gone.
Justin Rose rose from the ranks after rattling in an eagle on the 15th and when he once again birdied the 18th, as he had done on every round, he stood at -6, also with a good chance, but it was not quite enough.
Rory Mcllroy was reckless then roared. Like Justin, he rose from nowhere and when he also rolled in an eagle on the 15th, he sensed blood and bounded onwards, relishing the excitement of being back in contention. But he could not quite sustain his challenge.
The dark horse, the relatively unknown American, Xander Schauffele, was initially subdued, just like his playing partner Speith. However, he resurrected his challenge, stayed remarkably calm, began to play serenely and in the final knockings really scared Molinari. He then scuffed on the 17th, which effectively ended his challenge.
The Kevins, Kisner and Chappell, were also very much in the hunt. Yet for Kisner, he probably killed his chances with a poor opening nine whilst Chappell was chomping at the bit, challenged very strongly but ultimately choked.
Tommy Fleetwood was the greatest hope from an English perspective at the start of the day but he was tortured, misfiring and failed, his fleeting chance lost in the opening part of his final round.
However, another Englishman, Eddie Pepperell was excellent, he soured and elevated himself up the leaderboard like an eagle and, for several hours, was the clubhouse leader following a round of -4, the best of the day.
As for the other big names, Thomas was terrible, Rahm was rank, Poulter was poor, Dustin was dreadful, Fowler floundered, Reed was restricted and Mickelson was mediocre.
As for the course, Carnoustie was a challenge and rewarded both the consistent and the creative. It was both cool and calm as well as cold and chilly.
All in all, a fantastic Open Championship, riveting from start to finish with a fully deserving victor and for the first time an Italian. Magnifico !