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Francesco Molinari: 2018 Champion Golfer of the Year

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2018 Open Champion and Champion Golfer of the Year is Francesco Molinari.

In what turned out to be a breathless, topsy-turvy final round in Angus, Scotland, the Italian number one defied the odds to finish two strokes clear of the field amidst a stunning run of 36 holes without a single dropped shot.

In securing his maiden major title, Molinari became the first Italian to lift the Claret Jug and, in fact, the country's first golfing major winner of any sort in the history of the sport.

Catch the winner's press conference as a disbelieving Molinari faced the world's media...

Final round highlights

The final round had it all and will go in down as one of the finest in recent Open history.

Heading in to the final day's play Jordan Spieth and last year's PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele held a two-shot lead over Molinari but both ran into trouble in the opening few holes. It wasn't long before the 147th Open Championship would enjoy a seriously bunched final round leaderboard with no less than six leaders at one point.

From there Molinari surged into the lead and, in all honesty, it looked as if nothing would get between him and that shiniest of major trophies - the Claret Jug.

We have a confession: the new world number six wasn't on our list of Players to Watch. In our defence, he wasn't on many watchlists pre-tournament however, with hindsight being a wonderful thing, Francesco's form leading up to the Open Championship really should have demanded attention. Having finished as winner or runner-up in four of his last five tournaments on both Tours, it's unlikely there was a more in-form player at the 147th Open Championship.

OK, so that one was our bad but with all the early talk being about Tiger's chances of a fifteenth major, Dustin Johnson's role as the tournament favourite and Jordan Spieth's gutsy 2017 win, it's easy to see how the likeable Italian flew under the radar when most were considering their possible 2018 Open Champion.

In fact, Molinari's partner for the day was the aforementioned Tiger Woods and he handled all the hullaballoo that surrounds the 14-time major winner with consummate ease. For that fact alone, the Italian number one should be extremely proud. Managing to hold his game together and then go and win the whole tournament - with all that going on around him - is just mind-blowing.

What next for Molinari?

Just look at his swing and you'll see why it was only ever a matter of time before Molinari made his mark on the world game...

With that swing, and given his current level of play and consistency, you'd be mad to ever rule out the possibility of Molinari making a serious run at the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club.

Also on the horizon is the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris from 28-30 September. Prior to Sunday's events he would have been quietly confident of making Thomas Bjorn's European team; now he's a shoo-in after halting a sequence of five consecutive American major wins. Captain Bjorn will be happy.

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