Tiger Woods led briefly Sunday, but he faded and finished tied for sixth. Xander Schauffele was second, two strokes back.
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Francesco Molinari was the “other” guy, somebody to watch Sunday when the wall-to-wall spectators blocked a clear view of the superstar in his pairing, Tiger Woods.
Not many people imagined it would be the unassuming Molinari who would quietly assemble another brilliant round — no bogeys all weekend — to claim the British Open for his own.
Molinari shot a 2-under-par 69 to finish at 8 under for the tournament, becoming the first Italian to win one of the four major tournaments in men’s golf.
The sun was shining all day, but Molinari unquestionably was playing in a long shadow cast by a 14-time major champion making a dramatic return to relevance. The fans were so fixated on Woods that they shouted his name even when Molinari was standing over his ball, ready to make a swing.
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“Clearly, in my group, the attention wasn’t really on me, let’s put it that way,” said Molinari, 35, sitting in the media interview room with the glistening Claret Jug at his side. “If someone was expecting a charge, probably they weren’t expecting it from me.”
In the end, the most compelling drama came not from the leading men, but the co-stars. It came down to Molinari and Xander Schauffele, who was playing two groups behind him with defending champion Jordan Spieth.
Heading into the final hole, Molinari was two strokes ahead of Woods at 7 under, and tied for the lead with Schauffele, who was about to tee off at No. 17. A playoff seemed possible.
But Molinari would birdie No. 18, and Schauffele would bogey the 17th, creating a scoreboard gap that would never close.
Immediately after his round, with TV cameras trained on him, Molinari sat in a room below the grandstands at No. 18 and buried his face in his hands, trying not to look at the remaining action unfolding before him on the monitors.
“I couldn’t watch Xander play the last two holes, to be honest,” he said. “That’s why I went to the putting green because I probably would have felt sick watching on TV.”
Schauffele, 24, who is in his second season on the PGA Tour, shot a 74 and tied for second at 6 under with Justin Rose (69), Rory McIlroy (70) and Kevin Kisner (74).
Molinari played his final 37 holes without a bogey or worse. According to ESPN, he is the first major champion since Steve Elkington at the 1995 PGA Championship to play the final two rounds without a hole over par.
Molinari virtually clinched the title with a driver that skirted the edge of a pot bunker, leaving him a lob wedge from 112 yards that he hit to 5 feet. He poured it in, raised his right fist and shook it lightly before slamming it for emphasis. He earned $1.89 million and posted the lowest final score in the eight Opens played at Carnoustie.
“He chipped it beautifully,” Woods said of Molinari. “I know he made a couple of putts here and there for par, but to get it to where it was basically a kick-in from some of the spots he put himself in, that was impressive.”
Woods (71) briefly held the lead Sunday before fading to tie for sixth place at 5 under with Kirkland homeowner Kevin Chappell (73) and Eddie Pepperell (67).
Ryan Moore (71) of Puyallup tied for 12th at 3 under and Kyle Stanley (76) of Gig Harbor tied for 39th at 2 over.
• Because of heavy rain, final-round play at the PGA Tour Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky., was suspended until 4:30 a.m. PDT Monday.