The Open: Francesco Molinari ends 'hard' week on a high
Last Updated: 21/07/19 6:21pm
Francesco Molinari admitted it had been a tough week for him at Royal Portrush as he failed to defend The Open title.
The Italian, who produced a fine performance to win at Carnoustie last year, never threatened the top of the leaderboard in Northern Ireland after opening with a three-over 74 and then just squeezing into the weekend on the cut mark.
He then struggled a little with a 72 in the worst of the conditions on Saturday morning, but the 36-year-old clearly enjoyed his Sunday morning stroll around the Dunluce Links as he rolled in birdies at the second and seventh to turn in 34.
The highlight of his round came at the 12th with an eagle - his first of the week - following a brilliant approach shot to six feet, and he then added a birdie at the 17th to come home in 32.
"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.
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"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 Portrush and when asked if he had enjoyed his week as defending champion, he replied: "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."