Molinari the man to beat in the Open

World stars facing off in Northern Ireland in last Major of 2019

Redazione ANSA Rome

(ANSA) - Rome, July 16 - In the world's oldest golf tournament, the (British) Open Championship, Francesco Molinari will be defending his title in Northern Ireland from July 18 to 20.
    The Turin native became the first Italian to win a Major when he won the championship in 2018. From Carnoustie in Scotland to Portrush, an hour from Belfast, 'Laser Frankie' will be facing off against such big names as Brooks Koepka, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, the bookies' favourites for the title.
    Some 84 of the best 85 best players in the world will be vying for the Claret Jug, which Molinari gave back to the R&A board this week. The trophy was awarded for the first time in 1873, 13 years after the tournament was created in 1860. "What happened changed my life, Molinari said during a press conference presenting the event, speaking about July 22 last year. "Defending the title will be special. I want to enjoy every moment, like I did during the Ryder Cup 2018 in Paris. The Royal Portrush GC is a difficult course and a great one." Eleven years after Padraig Harrington, captain of Team Europe in Ryder 2020 (Wisconsin, US), the Piedmont native is trying for a back-to-back win.
    With him will be two other Italians: Andrea Pavan (second time in a Major in his career after the IS Open 2014) and Nino Bertasio in his debut in a Slam tournament. The Northern Ireland course will be the last chance for glory for Woods in 2019. The latest exploit of the California native at 'The Open' - as Brits are fond of calling it - was in 2006 at the Royal Liverpool GC. The tournament will be back at the Royal Portrush golf course 68 years after the first and only time it was previously held there. There will be Koepka, the 'man of the Majors' with back-to-back US Opens and PGAs who wants to reaffirm his leadership and take the top place of the FedEx Cup as well, as well as second-ranked Dustin Johnson and Olympic champion of Rio2016 Justin Rose. From Bryson DeCheambeau to Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Phil Mickelson and many others, the international elite of golf will be facing off. From 1860 to 2018 there have been 96 editions played in Scotland, 50 in England and only one (in 1951) in Northern Ireland. The legendary Old Course of St.Andrews is the course that has hosted the most and in 2021, as part of the 150th edition of a British Major (the only one of the four not played in the US) will have hosted 30. The record for the most wins - 6 - goes to Harry Vardon, who was the first player in history to hold the golf club at the end with both hands, which enabled him to invent the 'Vardon Grip'. 'Young Tom Morris' instead holds the record for four consecutive titles, from 1868 to 1872, and for being the youngest player as he was 17 years and 156 days old in 1868. 'Old Tom Morris' instead set the record for the oldest player, at 46 years and 102 days old in 1867. The first swing of the competition will be that of Darren Clarke, 2011 champion, who - alongside Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy - will be playing before his home public. McIlroy, ranked 3rd in the world, got the lowest score on the course (61) at age 16.
    The challenge will be an interesting one, with Molinari playing the first two rounds alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott.
    The competition of the Race to Dubai 2018 champion will begin on Thursday at 9:58 local time, while Woods will be facing off against Patrick Reed and Matt Wallace.
    Molinari, who also notched the first perfect record at last year's Ryder Cup, is without doubt Italy's most eagerly awaited player at this year's edition.