The Italian Francesco Molinari returned the Claret Jug back to the R&A on Monday at Portrush

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Francesco Molinari Returns Claret Jug

On Eglinton Street in the heart of Portrush there is an Italian ice cream parlour called Morelli’s. Inside, rendered on the wall, is a portrait of Francesco Molinari. You see, it’s true; life really does change when you win a Major championship, and particularly if it is your first such success and even more so if you are first golfer from your home country to do so.

Molinari, the pride of Italy, arrived at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland in the flesh today, to defend the Claret Jug he won at Carnoustie last July. On that weekend in 2018 he shot 65-69 – without a single dropped shot – to become Italy’s first Major champion by two shots.

And Molinari arrived in championship style today to return the Claret Jug to organisers the R&A, in a state-of-the-art EQC electric car from Mercedes-Benz, a patron of The Open.

The glamour has risen but the man in the middle remains unchanged. He is still calm, courteous, and humble as always.

“Winning The Open changes your life,” starts Molinari, 36, “especially for a guy like me who likes to go a little bit under the radar. I get recognized by more people and I have more commitments. That is what I needed to get used to. The time you have to prepare for tournaments is not the same and you need to learn to do the same work in a shorter time than before.”

In preparation for the demands of defending his Open title Molinari has arrived in Portrush well rested.

“I haven’t played tournament golf for three weeks now but I’ve been preparing at home,” says the world number seven. “I’m happy with how the work has gone but obviously the ultimate test is when you perform. I am happy with where my game is right now but the goal is to peak for those four tournament days.

“It would be incredible to win again, obviously. I’m well aware of the challenges ahead and there are a lot of guys capable of winning the trophy this week. I can only do my best and try to be in contention on Sunday. It’s a long week ahead so I’ll try to take it step by step.”

Molinari has not had time to visit Morelli’s yet but with his wife and children joining him in Portrush later this week, ice cream might make for a popular commitment.

Molinari tees off in the first round of The Open at 9:58am (local time) on Thursday, alongside Australia’s Adam Scott and Bryson DeChambeau from the USA.