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Shane Bacon

Francesco Molinari holds off Westwood in China

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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On Thursday at the Sheshan International Golf Club, Francesco Molinari teed off on the 10th hole to begin his HSBC Champions, and when he made the turn, reeled off four birdies in a row. His final score on Thursday? A tidy 65, with no bogeys.

Why are we talking about the first round when the tournament already ended? Because that's the only time Molinari finished any different than Lee Westwood. The two basically "Tiger at Pebble'd" the field, with Molinari edging the newly minted world number one by a shot, and beating the rest of the golfers by 10.

We've seen some solid weekend finishes, but the duo of Molinari and Westwood going 67-67 on the weekend when everyone else was struggling to break 70 was as impressive a close since Hunter Mahan finished 65-65 at the Waste Management Open earlier this season.

It was the final tournament of the season that really matters, and it was the first big win of Molinari's career, who turns 28 on Monday. It was also a good moment for Westwood, who has been garnishing a bit of criticism after moving up to the top spot in the World Golf Rankings.

Westwood didn't really lose this tournament, he just got beat by a guy that was red hot. If Molinari isn't in the field, Lee wins by nine. If Molinari doesn't hole out for eagle on the 13th hole on Sunday, when he didn't even realize the ball went in, this tournament could have gone to a playoff.

Sure, with every tournament there are a ton of what ifs, but Westwood must leave China with a sense of accomplishment. He started the week on the roof of a building in Shanghai posing with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Martin Kaymer, and ended the week in a heated two-man battle that could have gone either way. Unfortunately for Westwood, finishing second just means critics will again point to his inability to close out tournaments. This is the third time this season he finished alone in second place, but it wasn't nearly as heartbreaking as the Masters and British Open.

This week, Westwood just got beat, by a fellow Ryder Cupper that has game for days.

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