Francesco Molinari held off the challenge of Danny Willett on a gripping final day to secure a historic second Italian Open title on home soil.
Francesco Molinari held off the challenge of Danny Willett on a gripping final day to secure a historic second Italian Open title by just a solitary shot.
Molinari was crowned champion in his homeland back in 2006 and repeated that feat a decade later at Golf Club Milano to become the first Italian to win his national Open twice since the tournament was added to the European Tour schedule back in 1972.
The Turin-born 33-year-old was out early on Sunday to finish his third round, carding a seven-under 64 to join Willett at the top of the leaderboard on 16 under in a weather-effected event.
Molinari maintained his momentum by coming up with a closing 65 to end the week on 22 under and seal a first victory since his Spanish Open triumph in 2012.
Willett pushed Molinari all the way in his last tournament before playing in the Ryder Cup, making just one bogey all week but falling just short after signing for 67 and 66 in his third and fourth rounds respectively.
The Masters champion made par on 18 courtesy of a superb nine-foot putt in a tense finale, but Molinari played a sublime approach shot from behind a tree following a wayward tee shot and rolled in a three footer for par before throwing down his cap to celebrate a long-awaited victory.
Molinari stated his intent by chipping in at his first hole of the day - the 11th - and also chipped in from a bunker at 18 in his penultimate round, then conjured up an eagle at the first in his final round as well as five birdies and just one bogey.
The home favourite led by three shots midway through the last round, but Willett piled on the pressure with a third gain of his closing round at 13 and an eagle-three at the next.
Englishman Willett could not come up with any further birdies, though, and will head to Hazeltine on the back of finishing runner-up, with Nacho Elvira and Chris Paisley four shots back from Molinari.