Cape Town - Francesco Molinari is hoping to feed off the energy of the crowds this week as the Italian returns to defend his BMW PGA Championship title in the fourth Rolex Series event of the 2019 Race to Dubai at Wentworth Club.
"This week has always been special to me, even before last year, but obviously last year made it extra, extra special," said Molinari.
The 36-year-old overcame Rory McIlroy down the stretch in nerveless fashion last year, kicking off a career-defining run of form which included his Open Championship triumph at Carnoustie, a record-breaking Ryder Cup performance and the title of European Tour No 1.
"Obviously I've got beautiful memories from last year. The
duel with Rory on Sunday, and finally getting my hands on the trophy, it
obviously gave me a lot of confidence for the coming months after that," said Molinari.
"I was watching a video yesterday of the last few holes on Sunday, and you could see I was uncomfortable in that position. I think that was the first step forward to getting more comfortable in leading a tournament and closing it out."
Molinari leads one of the strongest fields in the tournament's long history, joined among others by the man who succeeded him as Open Champion in July, Shane Lowry.
The Irishman was honoured by the European Tour for his achievement at Royal Portrush two months ago, following Molinari onto the esteemed list of life honorary members.
Billy Horschel and Patrick Reed, meanwhile, are among the American stars playing the BMW PGA Championship for the first time this week after the date change from May to September allowed them to fit the prestigious tournament into their schedules.
Both European Tour Members, they are relishing the opportunity to play the famous West Course for the first time.
"I'm excited. I've been trying to get over to Europe to play a few European Tour events over the last few years, and unfortunately hasn't worked in the schedule. This being one of the key ones, I grew up watching this event on TV," said Horschel.
Compiled by Lynn Butler