POTOMAC, Md. — Francesco Molinari went from a share of the 54-hole lead to an eight-shot runaway in the Quicken Loans National, a performance that would not have surprised anyone who saw his victory in Shanghai in 2010.
Molinari never flinched in a duel with Lee Westwood that came down to the last hole in the HSBC Champions. He won by one shot, but far more notable was that no one else was within 10 shots of the Italian. It was his only World Golf Championship, and the biggest win of his career.
At least on the European Tour.
The PGA Tour finally put a WGC outside America, but then it did not recognize the HSBC Champions as an official victory until 2012. Molinari still received 68 world ranking points and $1.2 million. He even got into Kapalua a few months later for the Tournament of Champions.
But he remains slightly bothered that it didn't count as a PGA Tour victory. Westwood was No. 1 in the world. Molinari beat Rory McIlroy by 11 shots, Tiger Woods by 12, Phil Mickelson by 20.
"When everyone was saying I never won on the PGA Tour, I felt like saying, 'Well, technically, it was pretty much a PGA Tour tournament," Molinari said Sunday. "But yeah, it's just a formality, and I think it's different anyway to win on U.S. soil. ... So this win feels special."
The tour logic when the HSBC Champions began — "WGC Lite" was the nickname — was that only 29 players in the 78-man field were PGA Tour members. It found it unrealistic to count such a big purse against the money list, even though it would not have affected anyone at Disney the following week as it relates to the top 125.
A year after Molinari won, the PGA Tour said that it would count as official provided a PGA Tour member won. Martin Kaymer of Germany won, so it didn't count. The tour undoubtedly was answering to Americans who felt international players had a quick avenue to a PGA Tour card — never mind that they beat some of the strongest fields.
Ian Poulter won in 2012 and it counted as a PGA Tour victory. He was followed by Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Russell Knox, Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Rose. All were PGA Tour members.
Five of the nine winners are major champions.
It wasn't until 2002 that the PGA Tour finally recognized the British Open as an official victory, setting the all-time victory record of Sam Snead at 82. It's worth revisiting the HSBC and making those victories retroactive. It matters more in principle than in history, with one exception.
Mickelson won the first HSBC Champions, playing with Woods in the final group. Mickelson's goal is to get to 50 career victories.
Mickelson is at 43. He should be at 44.
The British Open is starting to take shape, and part of it has to do with timing.
Andrew Landry had a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at the Quicken Loans National to earn one of four spots available. While he missed, Landry at least helped himself with a tie for eighth, moving up six spots to No. 76 in the world ranking.
The R&A determines reserves by their place in the world ranking when there is a withdrawal or open spots.
A week ago, the Open took the leading five players (not already eligible) from the top 20 in the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai. Only three players from each tour qualified, leaving four spots available. Along with Paul Lawrie not playing because of injury, the five spots on last week's world ranking went to Chez Reavie, Byeong Hun An, Charles Howell III, Kevin Na and Beau Hossler.
Landry moved ahead of Ryan Moore and Aaron Wise if a spot were to become available this week, or in R&A language, "at the time that intimation of withdrawal is received or further places are made available."
Otherwise, the world ranking after this week will serve as the alternate list until the opening tee shot on July 19 at Carnoustie.
Meanwhile, three spots from the leading 10 at the Irish Open and four spots from the leading 12 at the Greenbrier are available this week.
DAHMEN AND KANG
The PGA Tour can now manufacture the groups for the opening two rounds, mainly to establish its feature pairings that are shown on PGA Tour Live. Odds are the tour will do what it can to avoid Joel Dahmen and Sung Kang from being in the same group.
Sunday night after the Quicken Loans National, Dahmen was asked why the group behind was able to play through on the par-5 10th hole. Dahmen replied with shocking bluntness: "Kang cheated. He took a bad drop from a hazard. I argued until I was blue. I lost."
That set off a firestorm. Player disputes on rulings are rare, and it's even more rare for a player to publicly accuse another of cheating.
At issue was whether Kang's second shot crossed the other side of a hazard near the green. He says it did. Dahmen said it didn't. The Twitter thread that followed was filled with commentary from someone who said he had a good view to a ShotLink worker who said there was no way Kang should have dropped near the green.
Without concrete evidence, such as video, the PGA Tour rules official sided with Kang. He finished third and earned a spot in the British Open (he still would have qualified even if he had made double bogey instead of par).
The tour said its officials interviewed all parties and had to side with the player. Kang's management group issued a statement saying that he stood by the PGA Tour ruling. Dahmen said he signed the card because it would have "delayed the inevitable." Firm in what he saw, Dahmen has decided not to comment further.
The teams already were set for one of the best team events in golf at the UL International Crown. The final piece was the four-player teams, and South Korea only affirmed that it will have a powerhouse squad for the October event on home soil.
Women's British Open champion I.K. Kim tied for eighth at the Women's PGA Championship, giving her the fourth spot on a team that already has seven-time major champion Inbee Park and double major winners Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu.
The Americans are the defending champions and No. 2 seed. They will have Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.
The other teams are Japan, England, Australia, Thailand (led by Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn), Sweden (with two major champions in Anna Nordqvist and Pernilla Lindberg), and Taiwan, a team that no longer includes the slumping Yani Tseng.
The PGA Tour made it official Tuesday by announcing that the RBC Canadian Open will move next year from the week after the British Open to the week before the U.S. Open. The prize money will increase to $7.6 million, up from $6.2 million this year. It will be held next year at Hamilton Golf and Country Club about 45 minutes west of Toronto. ... Nasa Hataoka of Japan already has earned $932,952, with $590,806 of that coming in the last two weeks after a victory in Arkansas and a playoff loss in the Women's PGA. ... The Utah Championship on the Web.com Tour is joining up with the Tony Finau Foundation to support aspiring golfers from Utah.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods tied with Francesco Molinari for most birdies (21) at the Quicken Loans National. Woods finished 10 shots behind.