Francesco Molinari hopes his Open Championship win can inspire next generation of golfers in Italy

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Francesco Molinari hopes his Open triumph can inspire the next generation after becoming the first Italian major champion.

Molinari, who had two wins and two second places in his previous five starts this season, carded a nerveless closing 69 at a windswept Carnoustie to finish eight under par, two shots clear of Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

Playing alongside a rejuvenated Tiger Woods, Molinari followed 13 straight pars with a birdie on the 14th and finished a brilliant round in fitting style with another from just three feet on the 18th.

Asked how big his win would be back in Italy, Molinari joked: “It depends. If Ferrari won today they will probably get the headlines.

“It was large news this last run of form. To achieve something like this is on another level. Hopefully there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Costantino (Rocca) in 1995 coming so close to winning at St Andrews.”

Molinari won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May and was second in the Italian Open the following week, before following a tie for 25th in the US Open with an eight-shot victory in the Quicken Loans National and second place in the Travelers Championship.

The 35-year-old only arrived in Carnoustie on Monday lunchtime and walked a few holes of a course where he missed the cut on his Open debut in 2007.

“It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t play the Dunhill Links (which uses Carnoustie as one of three courses) in the last few years because I got beaten up around here a few times already in the past,” Molinari added.

“I didn’t particularly enjoy that feeling. It’s a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There’s no way around it. You can’t really hide.

“I knew I was coming in with some good golf but my record around here was terrible. So that didn’t make me too optimistic about the week, but I just tried to not think about it and focus on hitting good shots day by day.

“To go the weekend bogey free, it’s unthinkable, to be honest. Playing with Tiger was another challenge because of the crowds and everything.

“But I felt really good this morning. When I came here, I felt I was ready for the challenge. Obviously conscious that it could have gone either way, but I knew I was going to do my best today.

“I’m lost for words really. Incredible to do something like this, and very proud of what I’ve done.”

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Jordan Spieth keen to look at positives after Open Championship disappointment

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Jordan Spieth focused on the positives after seeing his Open title defence end in disappointment at Carnoustie.

The American began the final day with a share of the lead but had to settle for a tie for ninth place on four under, four strokes behind winner Francesco Molinari, after shooting 76.

The 24-year-old said: “I’m fine. When you put yourself in position it goes your way sometimes, it doesn’t go your way sometimes.

“It was going to be a tough day. You knew you’d have three, four good looks at birdies, and the rest of the holes, you were just going to try to position it to make par.

“I played patiently, put good swings on it. I never got down on myself, I never got angry. I just didn’t make a putt today.

“But my stroke is there. It’s back, which feels awesome, and my game all together is back.

“So, I’m actually very pleased coming out of this week. Obviously, there’s the disappointment of not getting the job done today but I’m not going to win every single time.”

Spieth burst onto the world scene by winning the Masters and the US Open in 2015 and he narrowly missed out on a play-off at the Open in the same year.

With his form now returning after missing the cut at last month’s US Open, he feels he can get back to and better those levels of three years ago.

He said: “I believe that my best golf has yet to come, absolutely, even better than 2015.

“I believe that going through struggles, you start to realise where your tendencies are and how to compensate for it and turn them into advantages. I think that I have that going for me.”

Spieth admitted he was unsettled when he and playing partner Xander Schauffele were put on the clock as a warning over slow play.

He said: “I handled it OK, but looking back, that was a turning point in the round. I really rushed the 10th and 11th holes when we were being timed.”

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Henrik Stenson admits he wouldn't have played at Carnoustie if it wasn't a major

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Former Open champion Henrik Stenson bemoaned the timing of the elbow injury that prevented him making an impact at Carnoustie.

After a week of disrupted preparation for the Swede, winner at Troon two years ago, he finished down the field on one over par.

Stenson, who missed last week’s Scottish Open, admitted he probably would not have played this week either had it been a regular tour event.

The 42-year-old said: “Obviously, the lack of preparation and practice was always going to affect the result to a very high degree this week.

“I feel like where I’m at today with the practice and links preparation and everything, that’s where I should have been Sunday of the Scottish, and I would have had a whole week of ahead of me.

Henrik Stenson 1

“If it had been any other tournament, anything other than a major, I don’t think I would have teed it off this week.

“But it is what it is. Sometimes those things happen, and you’ve just got to make the best of it and move on.”

Stenson, who revealed he suffered the injury by banging his arm on a door, at least signed off at Carnoustie with a his best round of the week, a two-under-par 69.

Currently well outside the Ryder Cup standings, however, he has much to do in the coming weeks to try to secure automatic selection for the European team for this autumn’s clash in Paris.

He said: “I’m hoping the arm will clear up in a week or so and I can get back into playing without thinking about that and just working on my game, and hopefully I can find some form.”

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