Francesco Molinari delivered a record performance to win the final edition of the Quicken Loans National.
Molinari holed a 50-foot eagle putt to start the back nine, and he never stopped until he turned the final round into a runaway Sunday at the TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. The Italian closed with an 8-under 62 for an eight-shot victory, matching the largest margin this year on the PGA Tour.
Molinari followed that eagle putt with an approach to 2 feet on No. 11, one of the hardest par 4s on tour that had yielded only one other birdie in the final round. He made three more birdies and ended his round by missing a birdie putt from 8 feet.
No matter. He finished at 21-under 259, breaking the tournament record by seven shots.
“It was a lot easier than I thought,” Molinari said with a wide grin. “I played great. The start of the back nine was incredible.”
Tiger Woods closed with a 66, his lowest final round in more than five years, and he was never close. Woods tied for fourth, his best result since a runner-up finish at the Valspar Championship three months ago, though he was 10 shots behind.
“I was only four back at the time when I made the turn, and so I thought that maybe if I got on the back nine, I shot 30 — maybe 29 — that would be enough,” Woods said. “Evidently, I would have to shoot 24 on the back nine. What Francesco is doing back there is just awesome.”
Ryan Armour closed with a 68 to finish second, earning one of four spots to the British Open. The other three spots went to Sung Kang, who finished third after a 64; Abraham Ancer, who tied for fourth after a 72; and Bronson Burgoon, who had a day he won’t forget.
He played with Woods for the first time and experience larger crowds and louder noise than he had ever experienced. And with a birdie on the final hole for a 67, he tied for sixth to earn his first trip to the British Open.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Burgoon said.
Molinari’s decision to stay in America paid off in a big way. He is around the fringe of Ryder Cup qualifying, and the French Open was this week on the Ryder Cup course outside Paris. He also was No. 123 in the FedEx Cup, so Molinari decided to play the Quicken Loans National and the John Deere Classic in two weeks to improve his standing.
The victory, his second on the PGA Tour schedule, gives him a two-year exemption and moved him to No. 42 in the FedEx Cup.
“That’s what I came here for,” Molinari said. “It was not easy to skip Paris and the French Open. I made the right decision.”
Molinari previously won the HSBC Champions in 2010, a World Golf Championships event in Shanghai. But that was before the PGA Tour recognized it as an official victory unless a PGA Tour member had won the tournament.
That victory was a lot like this one — a master performance by a player who relies on his tee-to-green game and thrives when the putter is hot. And the putter was as scorching as weather that approached 100 degrees.
Molinari beat Lee Westwood by one shot, and no one else was closer than 10 shots in Shanghai. This time, he had the course to himself with a back nine that was close to perfection, much like his week. Molinari missed only 10 greens in regulation over 72 holes.
Not many people saw it. Thousands were following Woods all week, even in the oppressive heat over the weekend.
Woods came to live with a pair of birdies late on the front nine, and he was in range to get even closer when he hit a lob wedge to 6 feet on No. 10. He missed the putt. He missed the 13th fairway and took bogey for the second straight day. And then he missed a 3-foot birdie putt on No. 14.
“Those are things that I can’t afford to do and expect to win a golf tournament,” Woods said.
Woods served as the tournament host when the PGA Tour stayed in Washington in 2007 down the road at Congressional, a tournament with a mission of honouring military around the Fourth of July. It lost AT&T as a title sponsor, Quicken Loans stepped in for 2014, and then the Detroit-based company chose not to renew the contract, instead putting its sponsorship behind a new tournament in Detroit that starts next year.