More Open tickets released for sold out Royal Portrush

Francesco Molinari undecided if preparation for his defence will include the Irish Open

Francesco Molinari with the Claret Jug at Carnoustie in 2018. Photograph: Francois Nel/Getty

Francesco Molinari with the Claret Jug at Carnoustie in 2018. Photograph: Francois Nel/Getty

 

Francesco Molinari has yet to confirm his schedule in the run-up to his defence of the Claret Jug in the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in July, but whether or not the DDF Irish Open at Lahinch features in any part of his preparations, there will be guaranteed huge crowds awaiting the Italian when he sets foot on the Causeway Coast.

With the sold-out signs up for the championship on July 18th-21st, the Royal and Ancient has announced a further tranche of tickets to be released. An extra 15,000 tickets - 3,750 for each of the championship days - will be put up for advance sale on April 15th, bringing the total attendance in the week to 215,000 for what will be the first-ever sell-out of the oldest Major.

After tickets sold out in record time on their release last year, the R&A was prompted to reconsider the set ceiling and have found a way to increase capacity. “It was clear there was huge demand for fans to attend this historic occasion,” said the R&A’s chief executive Martin Slumbers. “We have worked closely with the government agencies, our advisors and contractors . . . and have decided that we can do so without impacting on the spectator experience.”

The R&A has also revealed that players will be allowed to wear shorts during the practice days, but not during the actual championship, there will also be a relaxing of the traditional no-readmission policy during the practice days.

Molinari - who had a stand-out season in 2018 which included lifting the Claret Jug and playing the starring role for Europe in the Ryder Cup - doesn’t envisage donning shorts on his latest visit to the north Antrim coast, but he is looking forward to defending a title he won so impressively at Carnoustie last year.

Whether the Irish Open at Lahinch two weeks previously will be included in his schedule has yet to be determined. “It is trying to balance the energies, the family time from now on with the Majors being so close together is going to be a busy time. It is important to get some time to disconnect. I will see closer to the Open, possibly six weeks before that I will make a call on what is the best way to approach it. See how I am playing, how the energies are,” said Molinari.

Molinari has retained his hunger following last year’s stellar season, which was shown with his recent win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “I have achieved my dream, that was winning The Open last year. I have achieved another dream, that was to be one of the best players of the Ryder Cup and help Europe win the trophy back.

Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood during Europe’s Ryder Cup success in 2018. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood during Europe’s Ryder Cup success in 2018. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

“I think I am at the stage where I have achieved my dreams and whatever comes now is going to be a bonus. I still have a lot of desire. I want to win more. I got a taste of it last year and it was great. For me winning is a huge motivation and spurs me on to do even more.

“You can see the way I am playing I didn’t settle, I didn’t stop. The dream is to keep improving. I feel I haven’t reached my limit yet. The dream is to see how far I can go and hopefully get as many wins as possible along the way.”

Next up for the 36-year-old is next week’s Masters. Molinari - currently on a week off at home in London - has yet to achieve a top-10 at Augusta National: “Short game and putting are the two things that have let me down there in the past. Because of the greens there, that is one of the biggest challenges. Hopefully I can putt better and shoot better around the greens.”

He added: “Winning in Carnoustie gave me more confidence and more belief in my abilities. At the same time, I knowgolf is a tough business and a tough sport and things can change very quickly.

“I think the margins between the top players at the moment are quite small. All I can do is control what I can control: my preparation, my attitude on the course. And I want to try to do that as good as possible. I’m honestly not going in (to the Masters) with any expectations or anything like that.”

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