Francesco Molinari won the 2018 Quicken Loans National after firing an 8-under 62 on Sunday at TPC Potomac in Maryland to tie the course record and get to 21 under for the week. He torched runner up Ryan Armour by eight strokes. It's (maybe somewhat surprisingly) Molinari's first victory on the PGA Tour.
His eight-stroke win over Armour ties the biggest winning margin on the PGA Tour season.
It also almost didn't happen, either. Molinari had a difficult decision to make this week regarding which tournament to play. The probable European Ryder Cup golfer could have played the 2018 French Open this week at Le Golf National in Paris -- site of September's Ryder Cup -- and nobody would have blamed him for choosing what was probably a better field on the European side; Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas all played in Paris this week.
"Our original plan was to play the French Open," Molinari's manager, Gorka Guillen, told the New York Times. "It was not an easy decision for obvious Ryder Cup reasons and also because of how good Francesco has played at Golf National in the past. The decision was only made due to his FedEx Cup ranking this year (currently 122nd) and needing to secure his PGA Tour card for 2019."
Molinari doesn't have to worry about his PGA Tour card anymore, as the win on Sunday means he has it locked up for the next two seasons after this one. He also ostensibly accomplished what he would have set out to accomplish in Paris: locking up his spot on the 2018 European Ryder Cup team.
It got late early, as they say, on Sunday as Molinari's ball-striking was on a different level than the golfers he was going against.The sweet-swinging Italian put on an absolute clinic as he led the field this week in strokes gained tee to green and hit over 60 greens in regulation. Molinari gave himself 10 birdie looks inside of 20 feet on Sunday, and he converted most of them. And when somebody like him is pouring in eagle putts like this one, it's pretty much over.
After two birdies on the front nine, that eagle on No. 10 pushed Molinari to 17 under on the week and widened an already-growing lead. Then (then!) he went absolutely bananas, with four more birdies in a row before winding down with four straight to finish at 21 under. When somebody with Molinari's tempo is really going well, everything looks way easier than it should. That's how it felt on Sunday as most of the leaderboard fought to get to 12 under or 13 under and duked it out for second while Molinari cruised, more than a touchdown ahead for most of the day.
The victory is Molinari's second on the season and maybe not even his most impressive. He also took the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship over Rory McIlroy in May at a tournament he said he most wanted to win. I'm not sure if he's going to put the Quicken Loans in that class, but it's not one he'll soon forget. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the 2018 Quicken Loans National.
Tiger Woods (T4): Tiger's week is complicated for me. On one hand, he finished T1 in the field in birdies made, but on the other hand, he lost by double digits -- although he was just two back of second place. His mistakes are not big ones, but the margins on the PGA Tour are obviously quite thin.
His mallet putter netted him a tremendous week on the greens (top 10 in strokes gained putting), but he struggled a little bit with his short game (chipping and pitching) and missed so many makable birdie and par putts, it was easy to lose track. Because this is the Quicken Loans National and not the U.S. Open, Woods was able to piece together a really solid week instead of missing the cut, but you get the feeling that if he cleans it up a little bit more, he's still got a lot of wins left in that body.
One underrated part of his week is that a strong finish is pushing him closer to top 50 in the world and entrance into the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he's won approximately 1 million times. Grade: A-
Tiger is dead last inside 10 feet this week, missing thus far 13 putts from within that distance and is currently in 6th place. Molinari by contrast has missed just five putts inside ten feet all week. Eight shots separates the two. pic.twitter.com/F7xE68FOsU— Brandel Chamblee (@chambleebrandel) July 1, 2018
Rickie Fowler (12th): The only top-10 player in the field this week never played all that poorly -- he didn't shoot a single round over par this week -- but a slow start on Thursday kept him from truly contending on the weekend. I wouldn't really call his performance disappointing -- he finished top 25 in strokes gained putting and strokes gained tee to green -- but you'd like to see him assert himself in one of these lesser-field events as the most dominant talent (which I believe he is). Grade: B
Joaquin Niemann (T17): Niemann shot a 65 on Sunday, and your boy now has finished 6th, T8, T6 and T17 in his four cuts made so far this season. A reminder: He's 19 years old. Nineteen! Niemann should not be doing what he's doing, and only a third-round 74 kept him from mixing it up on Sunday among the leaders. He'll get a win at some point -- the question now is simply whether it will come at some point this season while he's still 19 (he turns 20 in November). Grade: A-
Zac Blair (T27): Blair notched his second-best finish of the season after a terrific first three days. Oh, and he did it while showing off one of the great club twirls of our time, rocking a Jones Cup yardage book and tweeting about the best pins in the country in between weekend rounds. More Zac Blairs, please. Grade: B
CBS Sports was with you the entire way Sunday updating this story with the latest scores, analysis and highlights -- particularly while Woods was on the course. If you are unable to view the live updates below, please click here.
Thanks for stopping by.