Molinari hails 'hero' Rocca after Open triumph

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Tiger Woods briefly had the lead outright midway through his round.

"I know it's going to sting for a little bit but given where I was to where I am now, (I feel) blessed", he said after Sunday's round. "Costantinto still is and will always be my hero and my idol".

Among the chatter, naturally, came the question: Can Woods win another major?

"I told them I tried, and I said "Hopefully you're proud of your pops for trying as hard as I did", he said.

"He knows how hard I've been working to get here so I think he felt the same proudness that I felt yesterday", added the in-form Molinari, who in May won the European PGA Championship title at England's Wentworth course and recently claimed his first title on the USA tour at the Quicken Loans National.

"It wasn't too wild, there was a lot of joy from everyone but a lot of tiredness as well after a long week", he said of Sunday's celebrations.

"But it was great to have a few close friends and my wife having a few drinks and telling a few stories about the week".

"I'm not sure if it will make up for Italy missing the World Cup, but it's a first step forward", Molinari told CNN Sport's Alex Thomas.

Reputed to be the toughest links in golf, especially in the 20 miles per hour gusts that finally arrived Sunday, Molinari stopped playing the Dunhill Links Championship because that one stop on the three-course rotation ate him up.

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 victor Jordan Spieth.

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CNN's Living Golf host Shane O'Donaghue sat down with the Italian before his Open triumph to find out how well he knows his own career and by the sound of it, Molinari's isn't motivated all that much by monetary reward. "This wasn't a fluke", insisted the Texan after losing his grip on the Claret Jug to Molinari. Molinari went bogey-free on the weekend on a course with some of the toughest holes in the world.

"He's a different character".

"The only thing they've seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through".

Amid so much chaos - seven players atop the leaderboard, six of them still tied on the back nine - Molinari played a steady hand by going the entire weekend without a bogey and finishing with a 5-foot birdie putt that secured his place in history as Italy's first major champion.

"This was a special moment for Francesco but it was a special moment for European golf because this was for one of the hard workers and good guys of the Tour".

He has played just 12 events that offer Ryder Cup points, about half as many tournaments as most American prospects.

Taking to Twitter following the day's play, Hauck uploaded the footage, which quickly went viral online - the clip has been watched over 58,000 times on social media. It's still great for golf. "That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of the Open for me".

He entered the turn for home in better spirits after holing a massive birdie putt at the ninth to move to four-under, winking at American playing partner Matt Kuchar as he went to pick the ball from the hole.

"He's like, 'He hasn't been in this position in 10 years, and you've been here how many times in the last three years?' He was throwing it back at me", Spieth said.

To say thank you for the intervention, Woods gifted Hauck a signed glove, which for a fan was arguably worth the trouble of being hit on the head by a golf ball.

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