Francesco Molinari rues poor start to Open title defence

Francesco Molinari
Francesco Molinari
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Francesco Molinari lamented losing his fire right at the wrong time at the conclusion of a disappointing title defence at the Open.

The Italian stormed to victory at Carnoustie last year and stepped into action at Royal Portrush in good form.

The 36-year-old from Turin shot a fine 66 on Sunday to finish three under for the week, with a sticky three over par score in the first round bound to rankle for some time to come.

"I had a chat with the coaches last night about playing with more passion," said Molinari.

"Yesterday I was back to just playing golf but not really being good enough.

"So I just had to go out, just enjoy it, leave all the emotions out there and put a bit more passion into the experience.

"It's been hard but I wasn't expecting anything else. I wasn't expecting to win again, I was expecting maybe to play better but that's because my preparation went very well.

"It's been a hard week, definitely, but not harder than I expected.

"We recognised how tough it was going to be. The last piece of the puzzle was keeping the expectations in order, but that's never going to be easy in the circumstances.

"Whoever wins is going to have a tremendous feeling this afternoon, tonight, and they are going to enjoy a lot having the Claret Jug at home.

"It's going to sound obvious but it's better to win one year and play badly the next year rather than finishing fifth in both years.

"So I'll take that and I'll take the experience from this week and try to learn from it."

Molinari conceded he had struggled under the weight of expectation in defending his title, even despite his clear pride in a week of mixed emotions.

Asked if he had enjoyed his week as defending champion, Molinari said: "I can't lie - some bits of it yes, some bits of it no.

"But it was not managing my expectations well enough unfortunately.

"Today I was playing more freely, just enjoying the support from the crowd and trying to enjoy the bad shots as well as the good.

"I've enjoyed being Open champion massively. I've worked so hard to get there, so I've enjoyed more recognition and outside expectations going up.

"So obviously for me if I can manage my own expectation, it was a new challenge this week having never defended a major title before.

"This week making the cut was massive I would say after Thursday, and finishing with a round like today in these conditions can hopefully give me some momentum going forward."