Molinari posted a 12-under 276 total and, after a two-hour wait in the clubhouse, celebrated his third PGA Tour victory when none of the overnight frontrunners could match his total.
"I kind of see the Claret Jug every day when I'm at home, so I'm used to seeing it", said Molinari, drawing a laugh in the media center. "I hit solid shots into greens, it's just asking a lot of yourself to try and hole 25-footers all day to make birdies". No one ever got any closer. A miss from five feet at the next hole rather set the tone for what was to come.
McIlroy will saddle back up this coming week at the Players Championship, where he'll have yet another chance to alter the annoying narrative that will follow him until he redirects it.
Bradley's challenge fell apart early on with four bogeys in his first five holes, while a second bogey of the round from Fleetwood on the eighth hole saw him drop back to seven under alongside fellow Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick, who was three under through 11 holes. McIlroy's downfall was the par 5s - for his second shots, he had 5-iron, 3-iron, 4-iron and wedge into the green.
McIlroy, who usually eats par-5s for breakfast, lunch and dinner, played the four par-5s in just 1-under on Sunday, with three pars and a birdie.
"It's great", the 24-year-old said of the prospect of playing in the final group with McIlroy on Sunday. "I think sort of protecting my position a little bit".
Molinari delivered the highest quality on a day that required nothing less. He had four birdies in the first six holes and three more after the turn. The frustration mounted for the world number 37 when he three-putted the last and finished eight under.
He was at 9-under 207, which spoke to the difficulty of a fast, fiery course that would have made Arnie proud.
He said his brother, Edoardo, has produced research questioning the value of leaving the flagstick in, and those findings mirror the research conducted for Golf Digest by Tom Mase, a professor of mechanical engineering at California Polytechnic State University.
He won for the fourth time in the last nine months, and in his first start since signing a new equipment deal.
No one got closer than two shots the whole time he was in the locker room watching the back nine, which was harder than he made his golf look. Sung Kang also had a big putt on the 18th hole, this one from 12 feet for par that sewed up the third and final spot offered for the British Open at Royal Portrush this summer.
At 7-under he is two behind outright leader Matt Fitzpatrick of England and one behind defending champion Rory McIlroy whose third round 66 was the equal best score of the day.
"This golf course has played much tougher from the beginning compared to previous years", McIlroy said. "Once we get to the end of year, we might know a lot more about it".
When he won last July at Carnoustie, Molinari had to sit 30 minutes before finding out he had won his first major championship.
Four-time major victor McIlroy, who would complete the career Grand Slam by winning next month's Masters, fired a 67 to join pal Fitzpatrick in Sunday's final pairing.
"It's phenomenal", Fitzpatrick said of Molinari's round.
"Finding motivation was easy after previous year", Molinari said.