BMW PGA Championship 2018: Francesco Molinari takes crown after Rory McIlroy stalls

Rory McIlroy played his first 36 holes of the week at the 2018 BMW PGA Championship in 12 under. Then he played the final 36 in 3 under and lost the tournament by a pair to Francesco Molinari (who trailed by five at the halfway point). McIlroy, who finished at 15 under overall, shot a 2-under 70 on Sunday, which wasn't nearly enough to catch Molniari, who shot a 4-under 68 and finished at 17 under overall.

That pair started the day tied, but an even-par 35 on the front nine had McIlroy in a hole, and he had to press coming home. A bogey at No. 10 pushed him even further down the leaderboard, and even though he responded nicely with birdies at the back-nine par 5s -- Nos. 12, 17 and 18 -- it wasn't enough when the day was done.

The four-time major winner had some opportunities coming home, but he narrowly missed birdie putts, had multiple lip-outs, left an eagle short at the last and didn't give himself enough tap-ins to mount any kind of momentum. It didn't help that Molinari wasn't missing any fairways or greens.

So for the second straight tournament in which McIlroy was in contention, with the other being the 2018 Masters, he has disappointed on the final day. His hole was deeper against Patrick Reed at Augusta, and it's understandable that he didn't win. But to not even contend there and then play on Saturday and Sunday at Wentworth with nobody ahead of him and shoot 71-70 is a bummer.

I suppose it points to a few loose aspects of McIlroy's game that he still needs to work out. It's something he's posited all week at Wentworth.

"I was saying the couple of shots that got me yesterday I missed to the right, and then today the shots that cost me were missing left," McIlroy said. "When you have the two sides of the golf course in play, it's a little difficult. If you could just take one side out of play, then at least you know what your miss is and you can sort of play against that.

"But when you're missing shots left and right, it becomes a little more difficult. Just a few more hours on the range and try to get ready for next week."

Molinari was exceedingly impressive all weekend. He shot a round-of-the-day 66 on Saturday and didn't drop a shot on Sunday. His victory here will likely get him back into the top 20 in the world and could start a little conversation about whether he should be on the 2018 European Ryder Cup team.

Molinari, who joined fellow Italians Matteo Manassero and Costantino Rocca, is a talent we sometimes forget about or underrate on the PGA Tour because he doesn't play in the U.S. as often as some other European players, but his ball-striking is world class and that showed this week in his victory.

"I think if I could pick one tournament to win in my career, it would be this one," Molinari said. "To finally get over the line, it was amazing. It's an amazing week. It's one of the best tournaments of the year."

As for McIlroy, his focus will now turn stateside. He'll play the Memorial next week as Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods all descend on Muirfield Village, and then he'll head to the U.S. Open at Shinnecock two weeks after that. While the Ulsterman didn't repeat his 2014 feat of winning this tournament ahead of winning two more majors that summer, the more important part of that equation (the winning of the two majors) is still available.

"Just disappointed I didn't play better over the weekend," McIlroy said. "I was in a great position after two days, and struggled yesterday and sort of struggled today again. Just couldn't get it going. You know, I let Francesco get a few shots ahead on me and I just couldn't claw that back.

"Played some good golf coming down the back nine. Hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward."

There are kinks to be worked out for sure -- most notably his Sunday scoring -- but McIlroy is certainly in a better place at this time in the year than he was in 2017, and he has yet another summer in which he can add to his impressive (and still improving) resume.

"It's close, it's very close," he said. "I've given myself a great chance here this week. I didn't quite pull it off but it's not far away. I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week.

"But that's not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing. You know, he deserved the win. I just need to do a little bit more work, and looking forward to getting right back at it at Memorial next week."

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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