Defending champion Molinari is concerned with open expectations

Posted by on July 15, 2019  /   Posted in golf reviews

Molinari says that winning The Open "changes your life … especially for a man who wants to get a little under the radar". The 148th Open Championship, Royal PortrushDates: 18-21 JulyCoverage: Live text updates and in-play clips on BBC Sport website, with live commentary on live BBC Radio 5 and daily highlights on BBC Two. Full details

Francesco Molinari believes he has the resilience to cope with the expectation that he is the title defender while trying to keep the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush this week

became Molinari, 36, the first Italian to win a grand prize when he won the Open Championship in Carnoustie last year.

He will begin his defense alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott at 9:58 AM BST on Thursday.

"I am well aware of the challenges," said Molinari.

"There are many guys able to win the trophy and all I can do is do my best, try to defend a good defense and be in battle on Sunday."

World number seven continued his star form last year when he finished sixth in the US PGA Championship and then became one of the stars of the Ryder Cup-winning team in Europe in October.

Initially, Molinari admitted that he was not prepared for the extra pressure that came with being a great champion, but has learned to cope with the extra obligations of sponsors and the media, expecting him to perform recognized on the course and more often.

That is the popularity of Molinari, a giant mural by the title defender is plastered over the wall of an ice cream parlor run by an Italian family in Portrush, on the road's lane.

"It changes your life, really, especially for a man like me who likes to go a little bit under the radar and doesn't really need attention," Molinari explained.

A wall in a Portrush ice cream shop is decorated with a mural with the face of Francesco Molinari

Molinari, who said that after his victory he had drunk a few drinks from the Claret Jug, but was "very, very careful" with it , added: "Expectations continued to increase almost every week.

" I think I have now learned to do a decent job by doing that. Of course this week will be extra special and every week you defend is special – especially with a big championship.

"My approach will be to try to enjoy as much as possible, as I did last year at the Ryder Cup, almost try to dig through the energy of the crowd and make me perform as well as possible."

Molinari & # 39; mentally stronger now & # 39;

Nerveless Francesco Molinari cards 69 to win Open title

Molinari seemed ready to add to his first big win when he led with seven holes to play on the last day of the Masters in April.

But a double bogey on the par-three 12th, where Molinari & # 39; s tee shot found water, paved the way for Tiger Woods to win his fifth Green Jacket, with the Italian falling back to an equivalent fifth .

However, he believes that those experiences will be beneficial in the future and is satisfied with the way he is approaching this week in Northern Ireland.

"It's a lot stronger now," Molinari said of his mental resilience after working with performance coach Dave Allred.

"Mentally, the way I approach things is very different. Before I got stuck in a box that was built around me partly by others and partly by myself.

" It has me just helped to understand that I made that box and that there was no reason I couldn't get out of that box. That has made a big difference. "

Molinari does have experience with these Irish links after he played the opening round of the Irish Open in 2012 alongside local favorite Darren Clarke, who had won The Open the year before.

"I remember the first hole," he said, "if you had seen the first hole, there would be rows of people, both sides of the channel all the way to the green.

"Only the roar he got when he appeared on the first t-shirt is definitely one of the loudest I've ever heard on the golf course.

" It was just an incredible atmosphere. They welcomed Darren back with the Claret Jug. I think that's a taste of what we're going to get this week. "

Fleetwood counts on & # 39; home & # 39; support

Tommy Fleetwood is in 20th place in the world

Molinari & # 39; s Ryder Cup exploits came together with partner and close friend Tommy Fleetwood, who was briefly controversial at Carnoustie last year before he fell away for his best open finish of to score 12.

The Englishman hopes that he can again count on "home" support to increase his chances of being one of the front runners in Northern Ireland.

"I have been very lucky in recent years with really good support," he said. "I have always had a very good relationship with the crowd and the friends who watch.

" It is something that has always come fairly naturally, but something that you can never take for granted and I love for play the door of a lot of support from fans.

"It's clearly the island of Ireland, but it's still an open house, it's still the British Open. This is as much support as you get.

" It has its benefits – you could struggle, those guys will try to carry you and maybe you play great and you just have to roll it out and that's the whole point to be home. "

Fleetwood admits that 2019 is not & # 39; hot & # 39; has been like its previous two years in form, with its highest placed finish in the first three majors of the year a draw for 36th at the Masters in April.

But the world number 20 does not put pressure on himself to win an elusive first major, and says he has time on his side.

"I am 28, your career is long," added Fleetwood.

"We are not tennis players or football players. But at the moment I am almost reaching my peak year.

"Certainly every time I practice or play or preppings, majors will always be there and always the one everyone wants to win.

" But if you put pressure on urgency or put yourself under pressure do not do yourself a favor.

"Just keep doing things as well as possible and hopefully, one, two, three majors … hopefully at least one will come along."

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