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Molinari surges to win Arnold Palmer Invitational

13 March 2019

That's what Francesco Molinari's message was to the rest of the Arnold Palmer Invitational field - with his clubs, not his mouth - when he delivered the signature moment of the week Sunday at sun-splashed Bay Hill: His 43 ¹/₂-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole stamping an exclamation point on his final-round 64.

Harding, who won twice on the Asian Tour and twice on the Sunshine Tour in 2018, is projected to move just outside the world's top 50 when the rankings are updated today.

Molinari made almost 150-feet of putts on Sunday, including the 44-footer at the closing hole, an 18-footer at the 13th, and a 21-footer at the first.

Playing partner Rory McIlroy took plenty of the spotlight as he started the day one behind Fitzpatrick but he also failed to make any ground. It was another disappointing tournament for a man who is developing an unfortunate habit of being able to finish the job off.

Fitzpatrick had never finished better than tied 7th in 48 previous starts on the PGA Tour, so to claim second spot following a final-round 71 was a huge step forward. It's easier to keep some sort of control when you're hitting the shots.

England's Fitzpatrick came closest to catching Molinari, but rued a missed 12-foot eagle putt at the 16th that would have cut the deficit to one stroke.

The 29-year-old has now played in the final pairing nine times in the last 13 months, failing to win any of those tournaments.

2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational scores, grades: Francesco Molinari wins with final-round 64
Molinari claims Palmer Invitational as McIlroy fades

McIlroy shot a level-par 72 on Sunday, after beginning the day at eight under. He will be bitterly disappointed to have seen another great victory chance slip through his fingers. McIlroy and last week's victor Keith Mitchell highlighted a group of four at eight under.

First-round leader Rafa Cabrera-Bello was sharing second when his approach to the last found water and he dropped to nine under. It was a day to forget for Graeme McDowell as his 78 saw him in tied-54th on two over. McIlroy finished at eight under and tied for sixth, amazingly his worst finish of 2019.

Molinari, who collected four birdies on each nine, posted a 72-hole score of 12-under 276 and became the sixth global victor of the API in the last 10 years.

Molinari canned a 44ft birdie putt on the last hole at Bay Hill to card a closing 64 and post 12 under, which ultimately gave him a two-shot victory over Fitzpatrick. If you were wondering how on earth Molinari would come up with an encore following his three victories worldwide last season and heroics in Paris, wonder no more. He becomes the fifth South African victor of this event after Darren Fichardt, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Branden Grace.

"I probably played too safe". "It's high up there with the best wins I've ever had". I get into the events that I'd like to be into again, the schedules change, I'm no longer having to pick and choose.

In truth, he knows that had he birdied all the par-fives instead of just one of them (a wedge to 10 feet followed by two putts at the 16th), he might have been in the mix right to the end. Finding the greenside rough on No. 8, he took the 45-foot pitch and buried it in the bottom of the cup, moving to four-under for the round. Vijay Singh will be teeing it up with the kids for the third time in four weeks at the Players Championship.

Molinari surges to win Arnold Palmer Invitational