Thorbjorn Olesen denied Francesco Molinari back-to-back wins on the European Tour as he clinched a thrilling one-shot victory at the Italian Open.
The young Dane closed with a 64, and made four birdies in six holes on the back nine to open up a two-shot lead, which was halved when Molinari drained a 50-foot putt for birdie on the final hole, much to the delights of the Italian fans.
Needing to par the final hole to win, Olesen pulled his drive into a tricky lie in the left rough and blocked his second into a greenside bunker, but he splashed out to seven feet and drained the putt to secure his fifth European Tour title.
Overnight leader Lee Slattery made a late run with an eagle at 15 and a birdie at 17, but he had to settle for outright third, two shots behind Olesen.
Earlier in the day, Lee Westwood and fellow Ryder Cup vice-captain Graeme McDowell shot 63 and 64 respectively to finish on 17 under par, but both knew that it would not be good enough to trouble the later starters on the easy scoring course at GardaGolf.
Molinari, who won the previous week’s BMW PGA Championship, had a golden opportunity to win back-to-back Rolex Series event, and all but secure his Ryder Cup place, but was left to rue a costly bogey on the 344-yard par-4 17th. Tied for the lead with Olesen, he took a driver off the tee, but short sided himself, with his 40-yard chip ending up in the greenside bunker, from where he was unable to get up and down for par. And despite the heroic birdie at the last, the 37-year-old Italian, who was bidding for a third win in his home Open, came up one shot shy of Olsen’s 22-under-par total.
Speaking about his first win since the Turkish Airlines Open in 2016, Olesen said: “To come into this Rolex Series and to do what I’ve done is amazing, especially to come from behind and win. I haven’t done that in my career so far, so that was very special. It was nice to hole that putt on the last and to get that feeling of holing it when it really matters. This is exactly what I needed.”