By Sam McPherson
When someone wins a PGA Tour event by eight strokes, it is quite an achievement. And that is exactly what Italian Francesco Molinari did at the Quicken Loans National on Sunday by shooting a closing 62. Starting the day tied for the lead, all Molinari did was make two birdies on the front nine before exploding on the first five holes of the back nine to run away with his first PGA Tour victory. He played holes 10 through 14 on the TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm course in 6-under to finish at 21-under par for the tournament, leaving everyone else — including Tiger Woods — in the dust.
American Ryan Armour finished second at 13-under after shooting 68 for the second straight day, and South Korea’s Sung-hoon Kang grabbed third place. He shot a 64 on Sunday to jump 13 spots on the leaderboard. Meanwhile, Woods finished the tournament strong after opening with a 70 in the first round. Tiger posted 65-68-66 after that to tie for fourth place at 11-under par with third-round co-leader Abraham Ancer of Mexico, who struggled to a 72 on Sunday.
The real story was Molinari, however, whose best finish this year so far had been a tie for 16th place at the Wells Fargo Championship. He did post a top-20 finish at the Masters this season, and tied for second at the 2017 PGA Championship, so it is not as if Molinari came out of nowhere to win this event. All the same, the $1.278 million winner’s check comes close to doubling what he had won on Tour this year so far.
Before Molinari ended all the drama, it was shaping up to be an exciting finish to a low-scoring event full of birdies. In the end, though, only three golfers — Molinari, Armour, and 23rd-place finisher Stewart Cink — managed all four rounds in the 60s. Almost everyone had at least one average or mediocre day on the course, which slowed down the scoring pace for everyone except Molinari, who set tournament scoring records for aggregate score (259) and score in relation to par.
The Quicken Loans National started out with a bang as 47 players went under par in Thursday’s first round. Atop the leaderboard, Andrew Landry and J.J. Spaun shared the lead at 7-under par after posting matching 63s. One shot back stood Billy Horschel and Andrew Putnam, and two strokes behind lurked Ancer and Beau Hossler. Woods shot an opening 70 to finish even for the day and tied for 48th place.
Hossler posted a 66 on Friday to grab a share of the second-round lead at 9-under, tied with Armour and Brian Gay. Armour shot a 65 to move up six spots, while Gay did him one better with a 64 on Friday. Horschel carded a 68 to stay one stroke off the lead, tied for fourth with Molinari, who came in with his own 65 in the second round. Meanwhile, Woods shot a 65 as well to move up to a tie for 11th place, four shots behind the leaders.
Ancer owned the third-round lead after dropping a 62 on Saturday, moving up 10 places on the leaderboard to head into Sunday action tied at 13-under with Molinari, who carded another 65 on Saturday. Two shots back, Armour and Ryan Blair were tied for third. Blair posted a 66 on Saturday, while Armour carded a 68. Landry was in fifth place all alone at 10-under par, while Woods lurked in 10th place at 7-under after shooting 68 in the third round.
In the end, all of this leaderboard posturing made no difference, as Sunday was Molinari’s day to shine, and he left everyone else far behind in the fourth round.
>>MORE: This Week In Golf
Next On The Tee: A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier
The Tour does not travel far this week, heading inland to White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, for the Greenbrier event. This is the eighth year for the event on Tour, held annually at the Old White TPC since 2010, although the 2016 event had to be canceled due to flooding. Xander Schauffele is the defending champion after he posted a one-stroke victory last year in the event.
No player has won this event twice, although Robert Streb has finished second twice (2015, 2017). Angel Cabrera, the 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters champion, won this event in 2014. Every former winner of the Greenbrier is in the field this year, too, increasing the chances someone could walk away as the first two-time champion of the tournament. In addition, several former major winners are expected to play, including Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.
The course is a colorful one. Having opened in 1914, it was re-designed a bit during this current decade to meet TPC standards. Each hole has its own name, and some of the more intriguing monikers include the ninth (Punchbowl), 10th (Principal’s Nose), and the 15th (Eden) holes. The course has no par 5s on the front nine, but there are two on the back nine. Also, the Home hole (18th) is a par 3, which holds promise for an exciting finish on Sunday afternoon.
The Old White TPC course plays 7,286 yards long and is a par 70.
Favorites: Ryan Armour, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
Players to Watch: Abraham Ancer, Xander Schauffele, Robert Streb
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.