12:00 AM, July 24, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 24, 2018

Molinari steals limelight

Italy's Francesco Molinari holds the Claret Jug after winning the British Open Golf Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland on Sunday. Photo: AFP

It was expected that recent American dominance of the majors would continue at the British Open, but instead Carnoustie delivered Italy's first ever winner of the Claret Jug in the shape of Francesco Molinari.

Perhaps it was not the outcome that the huge crowds thronging the fairways on Sunday were hoping for, especially as Molinari's playing partner Tiger Woods looked in line at one point to claim his first major in a decade.

But while Woods faded after dropping three strokes in two holes at the 11th and 12th, Molinari kept his cool to shoot a second consecutive bogey-free round.

His 69 left him eight under par, two shots clear of his nearest challengers including Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, three ahead of Woods and four shots ahead of last year's winner Jordan Spieth.

Molinari is a rare golfer from continental Europe to lift the Claret Jug -- Sweden's Henrik Stenson triumphed at Royal Troon in 2016 but before him you have to go back to Seve Ballesteros in 1988.

The 35-year-old also finally delivered a major win for his country, going one step further than Costantino Rocca, who famously lost in a play-off to John Daly at St Andrews in 1995.

And he hopes his victory will have an impact back home in Italy, where Formula One is usually just about the only sport that competes with football for the headlines.

"The last round already was big news in Italy. Obviously, to achieve something like this is on another level," said Molinari, who started the day six under par, three shots off the lead.

"Hopefully, there were a lot of young kids watching on TV today, like I was watching Constantino in '95 coming so close. Hopefully, they will get as inspired as I was at the time, watching him vie for the Claret Jug."

Molinari, who lives in London and supports West Ham United, was not the favourite coming into the week but perhaps he should have been given his recent form.

He won the PGA Championship at Wentworth in May and recently claimed his first victory on the PGA Tour at the Quicken Loans National. He was also the runner-up at last year's US PGA Championship.

Molinari has long since emerged from the shadow of his elder brother Edoardo, who played at the 2010 Ryder Cup and finished in the top 10 at the 2014 British Open but has dropped to 397th in the world rankings.

"I would love for him to get back to where he was a few years ago. Golf is a tough beast," said Francesco.