Francesco Molinari described winning The Open as a life-changing experience and admits he was not prepared for the level of expectation that comes with being a major champion.
A year ago, Molinari made his major breakthrough at Carnoustie after a fine bogey-free two-under-par final round saw him clinch a two-shot victory.
Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were among the star-studded cast to have challenged unsuccessfully against Molinari, who went on to take five points from five matches in Europe’s winning Ryder Cup effort at Le Golf National.
Molinari is excited by the prospect of defending a major title, even if nothing could have prepared him for the additional responsibilities attached to winning one of golf’s big four.
“No, I wasn’t prepared for that [the rising expectation levels]. It was quite a big challenge, especially at the beginning, to get used to it,” he said.
“I guess it’s something you learn to deal with, especially obviously the win last year came after a certain period of time where I played some really good golf. So, expectations kept rising almost every week I was playing.
“But I think now I’ve learned to do a decent job of managing that. Obviously this week is going to be extra special, and any week that you defend is special. And especially at a major championship. So, it’s going to be another new experience for me.
“It changes your life, really, especially for a guy like me who likes to go a little bit under the radar and doesn’t really need the attention.
“It changes a lot in terms of everyday life, getting recognised by more people, commitments. Every tournament you play there’s more things to do. And obviously time with the media, but also with sponsors and various different things to do. That’s been the other adaptation that I needed to get used to.
“It’s even more impressive to think of the guys who have won a lot more major championships and they face a different challenge to some other guys.”
— The Open (@TheOpen) 15 July 2019
Molinari had the opportunity to add to his Claret Jug with a green jacket at the Masters in April, but a disappointing last-round 74 left him in a tie for fifth as Woods ended an 11-year wait for major glory.
The Italian had led through three rounds and he says only time will tell if he has learned from the experience.
“I don’t know [if I can learn anything], it depends in what position I get into on Sunday,” he added.
“All kind of experiences help you going forward. I’m sure if I’m going to be lucky enough to be in contention on Sunday, obviously the experience from Carnoustie last year will help me, the experience from the Masters will help me. But many, many others that I’ve had through my career.
“When you lose, in a way you want to forget about it as quickly as possible. But obviously then you analyse it and see what’s going wrong, if something has gone wrong.”