Francesco Molinari wins The Open for 1st career major championship

Molinari in disbelief after winning The Open (1:04)

Francesco Molinari expresses his feelings after earning his first major victory with a win at The Open. (1:04)

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Francesco Molinari played a steady hand amid another crazy ending at Carnoustie, outlasting a star-studded field that included Tiger Woods to win The Open and become Italy's first major champion.

Woods took the lead Sunday at a major for the first time in nine years and lost it with one bad swing. Jordan Spieth cost himself another chance in a major by failing to make a single birdie.

Seven players had a share of the lead at some point. Six were still tied on the back nine.

And through all that suspense, Molinari never flinched. He closed with a 2-under 69, playing the final 37 holes on the toughest links in golf without a bogey.

The clincher was a bold drive on the 18th hole that flirted with the edge of a pot bunker, a wedge to 5 feet and a birdie putt that made him a major champion.

"Just disbelief, to be honest," Molinari said with the gleaming Claret Jug in front of him. "To go the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable. Playing with Tiger was another challenge. But I felt really good this morning. I felt I was ready for the challenge."

Molinari, who finished at 8-under 276, raised his fist and shook it lightly before slamming it for emphasis. The 35-year-old then had to wait to see whether anyone could catch him.

The first to congratulate him was Woods. They were together three weeks ago when Molinari closed with a 62 to win the Quicken Loans National, with Woods presenting him the trophy. Woods lost the lead when he misfired off the tee on the par-4 11th and ended up with a double-bogey. He then bogeyed the 12th, and ultimately finished tied for sixth at 5 under.

Xander Schauffele, the last one to keep alive the American streak of five straight major wins, was 1 stroke behind until he sent a long iron well to the right of the 17th hole and failed to convert a 15-foot par putt to fall 2 strokes behind.

Schauffele had to hole out a wedge on the final hole and checked up well short of the cup. He had to settle for a second-place tie with Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Kevin Kisner at 6 under.

"It's been a tough fight," Molinari said in congratulating the four men who finished second. "But there can only be one winner. This time, it's me."

All four runners-up had plenty of reason for hope on a warm, windy afternoon that put plenty of bite back into Carnoustie.

Kisner, who started the day in a three-way tie for the lead with Spieth and Schauffele, took double-bogey on No. 2. Spieth hit into a gorse bush and made double-bogey on the par-5 sixth. Schauffele made double-bogey on the next hole, leaving one in the wispy grass, another over the green.

Molinari twice saved par with 8-foot putts on the 12th and 13th, and he took the lead for the first time with a short birdie on the par-5 14th. With another tough save from off the green at the 16th, he didn't miss a shot the rest of the way.

It capped off the best stretch of golf in his career. Over the past two months, Molinari has won three times and been runner-up twice, and his first major win moves him to a career-best No. 6 in the world.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.