Francesco Molinari has vowed to learn from his Masters battle with Tiger Woods after missing out on a second major title at Augusta National.
Molinari took a two-shot lead into the final round and was still two ahead with seven holes to play, only to hit his tee shot on the daunting par-three 12th into Rae’s Creek to run up a double bogey.
The Open champion responded with a birdie at the next and was part of a five-way tie at the top of the leaderboard until he again found thewater with his approach to the par-five 15th to card another double bogey, eventually settling for a share of fifth place.
“The energy out there was brilliant with Tiger being there,” said Molinari, who also played alongside Woods in the final round at Carnoustie last year.
“I’m proud of the way I stayed calm, even after making mistakes. I gave it my best so I am proud of that.”
Molinari’s previous best result in the Masters was a tie for 19th but since finishing 20th last year the 36-year-old has embarked on an extraordinary run of form.
As well as becoming the first Italian to win a major championship, Molinari won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, his first PGA Tour title in the Quicken Loans National – a tournament hosted by Woods – and he became the first European to compile a perfect 5-0 record in the Ryder Cup.
Molinari, who also won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March, added: “I learnt a lot from today, from the whole week.
“Next year it won’t be a course where I have never played well before, I’ll have a few good rounds under my belt.
“I think on the back nine there were just a couple of instances of not being aggressive enough and I lost focus a little bit but it’s a long week and it’s not easy to hit every shot 100 per cent.”
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Eighteen-time major winner Jack Nicklaus said Tiger Woods had him “shaking in his boots” after a remarkable fifth Masters title saw him resume his pursuit of the all-time majors record.
Woods’ 15th major title, secured by one shot at Augusta, came 11 years after his last, a period during which he has undergone multiple back surgeries and faced personal problems which had threatened to end his career.
Woods had himself suggested he would never again contend for a major, but Nicklaus said he always expected Woods to come back.
“I felt for a long time he was going to win again,” Nicklaus told The Golf Channel. “And, you know, the next two majors are at Bethpage, where he’s won (2002 US Open), and Pebble Beach, where he’s won (2000 US Open). So, you know, he’s got me shaking in my boots, guys.”
Nicklaus had been fishing in the Bahamas but caught the end of Woods’ round and said he was in no doubt he would win.
“There wasn’t any question in mind, after seeing (Francesco) Molinari hit the ball in the water at 12, and Tiger put it on the green,” he said.
“I said, ‘Tournament’s over’. It doesn’t make any difference what anyone else is going to do. Somebody is going to make enough mistakes and Tiger won’t make any, and he didn’t.”
Woods’ great rival and Ryder Cup team-mate Phil Mickelson also congratulated him, cheekily suggesting a rematch of the US dollar nine million challenge match they played last November – which Mickelson won.
An overcome Woods celebrated victory by embracing his family.
And his former coach Butch Harmon said on Sky Sports: “I’ve never seen him show emotion like that. At any time, anywhere, any time in his life.
“He was humbled by his own mistakes, the things he went through he created, nobody else created them, and he came out the other side.
“He got himself help, he got his body right, he got his head right and he went to work on his game. I couldn’t be happier for him and his family.”
Tiger Woods gave the sporting world a moment to remember with his thrilling Masters victory and hopes his children will never forget witnessing his redemptive triumph first hand.
Woods famously embraced his late father Earl after winning his first Masters in 1997 and 22 years later he was the proud parent celebrating a fifth Green Jacket with daughter Sam and son Charlie at Augusta National.
Charlie was not even born when Woods last tasted victory in a major in the 2008 US Open and Woods said: “It’s unreal for me to experience this.
“I couldn’t be more happy and excited, I’m kind of at a loss for words. To have my kids there, it’s come full circle. My dad was here in ’97 and now I’m the dad with two kids there.
“My little boy Charlie, that embrace is just special. Sam lost a State soccer tournament yesterday so I convinced her to come up and watch the Masters and luckily I was able to win.
“They were there last year at the Open Championship when I had the lead on that back nine and I made a few mistakes, cost myself a chance to win The Open title.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen to them twice so for them to see what it’s like to have their dad win a major championship, I hope that’s something they will never forget.
“Prior to my comeback they only knew that golf caused me a lot of pain.
“If I tried to swing a club I would be on the ground and I struggled for years, and that’s basically all they remember.”
Woods, who even suggested he might let his children take his Green Jacket to ‘show and tell’ at school, had roared with delight after tapping in on the 18th green for a closing 70 and one-shot victory over Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele.
Just two years earlier he had needed a nerve blocker in order to attend the pre-tournament Champions Dinner and feared that his career was over.
“I’m a little hoarse I think from yelling,” the 43-year-old added.
“It’s overwhelming because of what has transpired. Last year I was just lucky to be playing again, the previous dinner I was really struggling, I could barely walk.”
Woods started the day two shots behind Open champion Francesco Molinari and only took the outright lead for the first time with a birdie on the 15th.
After almost making a hole-in-one on the 16th, the tap-in birdie doubled his lead and Woods added: “I was just trying to plod my way around all day, all of a sudden I had the lead coming up 18 trying to make a (bogey) five.
“When I tapped in I don’t know what I did, I just know I screamed, then I was looking for Joey (LaCava, his caddie) somewhere. You couldn’t have had more drama than we all had out there, and now I know why I’m balding. This stuff is hard.”
He later thanked his supporters on Twitter, sharing a photograph of himself with the trophy and wearing the Green Jacket.
“I can’t thank my family, friends and fans enough for their support,” he tweeted.
“Having my family by my side today is something I will never forget. To not only be able to play again, but to be able to win again, is something I will forever be grateful for.
“This jacket sure is comfortable.”
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