CARNOUSTIE – Francesco Molinari said it would take some time for the achievement of winning the Open Championship to sink in as he gripped the Claret Jug on Sunday following his remarkable victory at Carnoustie.
The Italian also admitted he would probably need to change his flight home so he can celebrate becoming the first player from the country to win a major.
Molinari outshone reigning champion Jordan Spieth, a revived Tiger Woods and the rest of the field as he shot a flawless round of 69 to finish on eight-under-par around the Scottish links and win the title by two shots.
“I had an EasyJet flight at 9am to get back home, so I think that’s gone,” said the London-based golfer when asked how he intended to celebrate.
“I have a holiday plan for next week, somewhere nice with the family. So hopefully, we can still make the holiday and just relax for a few days.”
When asked to sum up his feelings, he added: “Just disbelief, to be honest. It’s amazing to stand here with the Claret Jug.
“I knew I was coming in with some good golf. 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.”
After sitting on level-par at the halfway stage, Molinari shot a bogey-free six-under-par round of 65 on Saturday to sit just three shots off the lead overnight.
Another clean round on Sunday allowed him to make the most of slip-ups from his rivals, including his playing partner Woods.
“To go the weekend bogey-free, it’s unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today.”
Molinari, 35, embraced his caddy on the 18th green after finishing his round with a birdie, although at that point he still had to wait for American Xander Schauffele to conclude his round before his victory was confirmed.
“I couldn’t watch Xander play the last two holes, to be honest. That’s why I went to the putting green, because I probably would have felt sick watching on TV,” he added after following in the footsteps of Spieth, who won last year at Royal Birkdale.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson won across Scotland at Royal Troon in 2016, but before that the last Open champion from continental Europe was the late Seve Ballesteros in 1988.
“To look at the names on that Claret Jug, obviously, what can you say? It’s the best golfers in history, and to be on there, it’s incredible,” he added.
“From someone like me coming from Italy, not really a major golfing country, it’s been an incredible journey.”
Molinari admitted he has avoided playing in the Dunhill Championship here in recent years, such is his dislike of the Carnoustie links, but this win confirms his incredible recent form.
He beat Rory McIlroy to win the PGA Championship at Wentworth in late May, and claimed a first PGA Tour win at the Quicken Loans National at the start of this month, when Woods finished tied fourth.
That experience, and coming up against Woods in crucial singles matches at the Ryder Cup earlier in his career, helped him cope with the huge throng of supporters and the media circus following them around Carnoustie.
“You know, I’ve done it before. I’ve played with him before in Ryder Cups and in big occasions, so I knew what was coming, and I was ready for it.
“Clearly, in my group, the attention wasn’t really on me, let’s put it that way.
“If someone was expecting a charge, probably they weren’t expecting it from me, but it’s been the same the whole of my career. I don’t really care too much about it.”AFP