Italy win World Cup for first time

MISSION HILLS, China: Italy’s Molinari brothers won the World Cup at Mission Hills by a single stroke yesterday after a thrilling tussle with Ireland and Sweden — the first time the nation has lifted the trophy.Italy began the final round foursomes just one shot behind overnight leaders Ireland and powered into the lead with three consecutive birdies on the back nine, finishing on a total of 29 under and winning US$1.7 million.

They kept their cool when Edoardo Molinari found a bunker with the second shot at the 18th, Francesco playing a perfect shot under pressure to within two feet of the pin, leaving his brother to tap in to seal the victory.

A monster 30-foot putt at the par-four 12th took Italy a shot clear at the top of the leaderboard and they followed that with another birdie at the par-three 13th, finishing with a final round 68 on the Olazabal course.

“Feels really good obviously. Probably we haven’t realised yet what we have done, but we played great for all week, and today we just had to hang in there and try to finish it off in the last few holes,” said Francesco, ranked 37.

“We were lucky to hole a couple of good putts just after the turn, which was really important to put us in front of everybody. I think we just played some great golf for all week, so it was amazing.”

The older of the brothers, 28-year-old Edoardo, ranked 63, said holing the putt for the victory was a sweet feeling after finding the bunker.

“I just said, ‘Francesco, just knock it on the green anywhere, and I’m going to hole the putt’,” added Edoardo, the top money earner on the European Challenge Tour, who defeated Sweden’s Robert Karlsson in a play-off to win the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan last weekend.

Consistent Sweden, who did not drop a shot in the entire tournament until the eighth hole yesterday, birdied the par-five 15th to close the gap to just one shot and keep the pressure on.

World number seven Henrik Stenson and Karlsson, who won the trophy last year and started the final round in joint second place with Italy, ended with a 69 and a total score of 28 under par.

Ireland’s powerful pairing of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, who had set a blistering pace with a 58 in the first-found fourballs, started shakily, with a bogey on the par-five third after McIlroy found the trees with his tee shot.

Although they hit back with a run of four birdies, a dropped shot at the par-three eighth and a missed two-footer for par from world number 10 McIlroy at the 10th proved costly.

Needing to birdie the last to take Italy into a play-off, McDowell’s putt fell just short and they finished level with Sweden after a round of 70.

England, teaming Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher, started the day eight strokes adrift of the leaders but powered up the leaderboard with eight birdies in a final round 64.

Japan ended a further four shots back on a total of 22 under, one clear of Australia.

Last year’s runners-up Spain, led by world number eight Sergio Garcia, finished on seven under, second last, after a miserable tournament, despite starting as one of the favourites.

The US$5.5 million Omega Mission Hills World Cup, near Shenzhen, in southern China, is a 72-hole event with 28 teams each comprising two players.

The first and third days were fourball, in which four balls are used and the player with the fewest shots takes the hole for their team.

The second and final days involved foursomes play, where the teams compete using only one ball per pair. — AFP

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