Open champion Francesco Molinari backing Tommy Fleetwood to come good

Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood in action at Walton Heath
Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood in action at Walton Heath

Open champion Francesco Molinari has spoken of coming in under the radar for his title defence, but he even admits his children may not notice the most famous image of him in Portrush.

The 36-year-old's focus will be on the Northern Irish links which hosts the championship for the first time since 1951 as he looks to retain the Claret Jug he won at Carnoustie 12 months ago.

However, son Tommaso and daughter Emma are likely to have eyes only for the local Italian ice cream parlour, which has paid tribute to their father with a mosaic on the wall made up entirely of sugar sprinkles.

It may be an impressive feat of decoration, but Molinari has no plans to visit and does not expect it to register with his youngsters.

"I've seen it on Twitter, online, yeah. I don't have any plans (to visit) now. Obviously it's a busy week," he said.

"But my family is coming out later on in the week, so it might be a good treat with the kids. They'll be happy getting ice cream - they probably won't even notice what's on the wall!"

As if his Open win was not enough, Molinari's profile went through the roof at last year's Ryder Cup, where he formed a formidable partnership with Tommy Fleetwood, winning all four matches they played together on his way to registering five points in total.

But while the Italian has a major under his belt, his good friend is still searching for one, coming closest in successive top-four finishes in the 2017 and 2018 US Opens.

However, Molinari is backing the Southport golfer to come good.

"I think it's not as straightforward as some people think it can be," he said.

"There's a lot of great players out here and he's definitely one of them, but he's still very young.

"I think he's doing all the right things. I'm sure his time will come very soon."

By his own admission, Fleetwood believes he is reaching the peak age at which to make the most of his talent.

But he admits trying too hard to win one of golf's premier events is usually detrimental.

So far this season his best result is a tie for 36th at the Masters, and the 28-year-old also failed to convert good chances to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship earlier in the year.

"You can't really force four tournaments a year. You can prepare as well as you possibly can and then you have to play well in those weeks," he said.

"When you get to a certain point in the world rankings and play week in and week out with the best players in the world, every single one of the majors becomes an opportunity to win a major.

"I haven't really been close this year, but I've played some consistent stuff in other events.

"I'm 28, your career is a long time. We're not tennis players or football players. At the moment I'm just about reaching what should be my peak year. We'll see what happens.

"Majors are always going to be there and always the ones that everybody wants to win, but putting the urgency or putting too much pressure on yourself is not going to do yourself any favours.

"Just keep doing things as well as you possibly can and hopefully one, two, three majors, hopefully at least one comes along."

The Open Championship First-round tee-times (GB & Ire unless stated) - all times BST:

0635 D Clarke, (a) J Sugrue, C Hoffman (USA)

0646 E Grillo (Arg), Sung Kang (Kor), (a) T Thurloway

0657 A Sullivan, C Bezuidenhout (Rsa), A Levy (Fra)

0708 C Kim (USA), Z Lombard (Rsa), (a) B Wu (USA)

0719 R Sterne (Rsa), R Langasque (Fra), (a) M Schmid (Ger)

0730 P Harrington, M Fitzpatrick, A Putnam (USA)

0741 B Watson (USA), E Pepperell, R Cabrera Bello (Esp)

0752 P Mickelson (USA), S Lowry, B Grace (Rsa)

0803 A Noren (Swe), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), S Locke

0814 W Simpson (USA), S Garcia (Esp), CT Pan (Tpe)

0825 R Palmer (USA), A Pavan (Ita), D Frittelli (Rsa)

0836 K Stanley (USA), R MacIntyre, A Johnston

0847 M Korhonen (Fin), O Wilson, (a) C Knipes

0903 I Poulter, Sunjae Im (Kor), K Aphibarnrat (Tha)

0914 H Stenson (Swe), X Schauffele (USA), G McDowell

0925 Li Haotong (Chn), R Knox, B Wiesberger (Aut)

0936 J Kokrak (USA), C Syme, A Connelly (Can)

0947 Z Johnson (USA), D Duval (USA), C Conners (Can)

0958 F Molinari (Ita), A Scott (Aus), B DeChambeau (USA)

1009 R McIlroy, P Casey, G Woodland (USA)

1020 H Matsuyama (Jpn), R Fowler (USA), Kevin Kisner (USA)

1031 J Furyk (USA), Si Woo Kim (Kor), J Walker (USA)

1042 L List (USA), A Bjork (Swe), P Waring

1053 S Imahara (Jpn), N Lashley (USA), B Hebert (Fra)

1104 M Horikawa (Jpn), C Shinkwin, G Porteous

1115 P Meesawat (Tha), M Baldwin, J Senior

1136 T Lehman (USA), J Niemann (Chl), M A Jimenez (Esp)

1147 Byeong Hun An (Kor), J Campillo (Esp), C Wood

1158 J Dahmen (USA), A Arnaus (Esp), D Papadatos (Aus)

1209 S Cink (USA), R Sabbatini (Svk), Innchoon Hwang (Kor)

1220 E Van Rooyen (Rsa), K Kitayama (USA), J McLeod (Aus)

1231 R Fox (NZ), S Norris (Rsa), Dongkyu Jang (Kor)

1242 T Hatton, K Mitchell (USA), T Pieters (Bel)

1253 T Fleetwood, J Thomas (USA), T Olesen (Den)

1304 B Koepka (USA), L Oosthuizen (Rsa), S Sharma (Ind)

1315 B Horschel (USA), J Janewattananond (Tha), A Wise (USA)

1326 J Spieth (USA), M Leishman (Aus), D Willett

1337 C Smith (Aus), A Hadwin (Can), D Lipsky (USA)

1348 P Lawrie, C Reavie (USA), J Harding (Rsa)

6 - TV Prog - The Open Live (152333224)

1404 (a) T Kanaya (Jpn), T Lewis, B Stone (Rsa)

1415 L Glover (USA), J Luiten (Ned), N Bertasio (Ita)

1426 E Els (Rsa), JB Holmes (USA), A Ancer (Mex)

1437 B Snedeker (USA), L Westwood, B Harman (USA)

1448 T Finau (USA), L Bjerregaard (Den), J Rose

1459 D Johnson (USA), J Day (Aus), K Bradley (USA)

1510 T Woods (USA), M Wallace, P Reed (USA)

1521 J Rahm (Esp), M Kuchar (USA), P Cantlay (USA)

1532 K Streelman (USA), D Redman (USA), R Rock

1543 A Otaegui (Esp), Y Ikeda (Jpn), I Benitez (Mex)

1554 P Kizzire (USA), Sang Hyun Park (Kor), Y Inamori (Jpn)

1605 Y Fujimoto (Jpn), Doyeob Mun (Kor), A Wilson

1616 G Charoenkul (Tha), Y Asaji (Jpn), A Turner

More Open Championship links

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