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Francesco Molinari Wins the Quicken Loans National

Francesco Molinari is your 2018 Quicken Loans National champion after tying the course record in the final round (an 8-under 62) at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. Sunday’s victory is the 5-time European Tour winner’s first on the PGA Tour. Molinari chose to skip this week’s European Tour event at Le Golf National (the site of the 2018 Ryder Cup) and opt to play in the heat of suburban Washington, DC. In fact, he told reporters this week he chose to play this event after watching the tournament last year from home on television, saying that he believed his game would translate well to the tight layout of TPC Potomac. It sure did, as Molinari was 4th in driving accuracy, T17 in putting, and astronomically the best when it came to greens in regulation this week- he hit 62 of 72 greens and missed just 6 in his first 3 days of tournament play. At just over 86% of greens hit, he led the nearest competitor by nearly 10%. Molinari tied tournament host Tiger Woods for the most birdies (21), and the Italian moved from 123rd to 42nd in FedEx Cup Points as well as moving up 1 spot to #16 in the Official World Golf Rankings (he swapped with Henrik Stenson, and fellow QL National competitor Marc Leishman remains at #18). Molinari also became the first Italian to win on tour in over 70 years- Toney Penna of Naples was the last to win when he won the 1947 Atlanta Open. Molinari’s 62 on Sunday, highlighted by a back-9 that began eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie, ties the course record, which was set each of the past 2 rounds by Kevin Streelman (2nd) and Abraham Ancer (3rd).

Asked about what it means to get his first win on the PGA Tour, Molinari told the press, “Amazing. You still have to sink in. I’ve always said that the next stage of my career would have been to win over here, and to do it in this fashion, it’s even better. I’m very proud the way I played today, probably some of the best golf I’ve ever played and I’ll ever play in the future. I think it’s hard to play better than this. Yeah, very proud.” The 35 year old noted that a crucial par save on 9 propelled him to a -6 5-hole stretch later on Sunday. “I think the par save on 9 was massive just momentum-wise. It could have cut the lead to two if I dropped a shot there, so it was a very good putt of mine,” Molinari said. “That was massive momentum there. It could have easily gone towards the other guy so it was great to get the save there and I think that started really the round of the tournament.”

Perhaps not the biggest story of the week, but it means a lot to some of the younger players on Tour, this week’s Quicken Loans National was part of the Open Qualifying Series. Four players who finished in the top 12 and ties, who were not already exempt into the 147th Open Championship, earned exemptions into the field at Carnoustie: Ryan Armour (2nd), Sung Kang (3rd), Abraham Ancer (T4), Bronson Burgoon (T6). For Ryan Armour, a 42-year-old veteran from Ohio, qualifying for his first ever major at the Open is surreal. “I’m so excited to go over to Scotland. You know, I’ve always thought that my game could translate over there with hitting fairways and keeping it low to the ground, so I’m excited to see Carnoustie. I’m fired up, especially with The Open Championship. I don’t want to sell anything short out here, I think every week’s a major. I mean, the way they treat us and the golf course setup, every week out here is a major championship.” He will be in West Virginia this week for A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier after moving up to 30th in the FedEx Cup Standings.

Sung Kang of South Korea put up his 2nd 64 in 3 rounds to finish in solo 3rd and also earn an invite to the Open- the 2nd year in a row he qualified based on his performance at this event. Kang attributed his great week to his familiarity with the layout and area around TPC Potomac. “Here is so much similar to my home country, South Korea. It has the four seasons and the tree lines, humid, hot in summer, winter gets cold and snowy. And then there’s some undulation also. A lot of courses in Korea, land is not pretty big in Korea so we always build the courses on the mountain, which is absolutely more hillier than here. So everything’s very similar. And a lot of Korean population, a lot of Korean good restaurants, so it just feels like I’m back in Korea and just feels very comfortable.” But there was some controversy later Sunday night involving Kang and his playing partner Joel Dahmen, who had previously played with Tiger Woods a day earlier. On the 10th hole on Sunday, Kang hit his approach shot into the hazard along the left side of the fairway. He claimed his ball crossed over in bounds shortly before it lost, approximately a wedge shot away from the green. Dahmen and several volunteers told rules officials that the ball was OB from the start, and that Kang should re-hit his shot near where he hit his original. After a 25 minute dispute, in which Ben Crane (one of the slowest players on Tour) and partner Ryan Palmer played through, Kang eventually hit his shot from where he wanted- getting up and down for par. Dahmen addressed the issue on Twitter Sunday evening.

Finally, 2009 & 2012 champ Tiger Woods finished T4 at -11 (269) following 3 consecutive rounds in the 60s. With roaring galleries following him all week, there was a moment midway through his Sunday round where he looked to make a move. But after a bogey-birdie-bogey stretch before disappointingly parring the short par-4 14th, it appeared he would have needed to shoot even better to have a chance at Molinari- jokingly telling reporters he needed a 24 to have a chance. And while the finish was not what fans perhaps were rooting for, a big question was finally answered- Tiger is figuring out his putter once again. Asked about the success of his new putter this week, Woods replied, “I rolled the ball well this week. I did some good work last week and the putter felt good. It felt good to start my ball on the lines again. I’m starting to see it, starting to feel it, and I had the pace pretty much good all week. The putts I missed, I hit a lot of good ones, which I don’t mind because I hadn’t been doing that for a while, the better part of two months. Even my good ones didn’t look very good, so this was nice.” Woods will take the next few weeks off before heading to Carnoustie for the Open Championship

Check out The Wrightway Network’s Instagram Page for highlights from the 2018 Quicken Loans National in Potomac, Maryland. COO Austin Meo will be back on the road this weekend with LIVE Saturday & Sunday coverage of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia- highlighted by Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Tony Finau & Webb Simpson.

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