Cape Town - Reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari is set to receive a hero's welcome upon his return to Rome for the Italian Open - the fifth Rolex Series event of 2019 - from October 10-13.
The world No 6 will tee it up on home soil for the first time in 18 months when he arrives at Olgiata Golf Club following a remarkable run of success on the European Tour in which he secured a first Rolex Series title at the European PGA Championship, a maiden Major victory at the 147th Open Championship and played a starring role in Europe's Ryder Cup win in France claiming five points from five matches.
The 36-year-old then rounded off a memorable year by becoming the first Italian to win the Race to Dubai Rankings, holding off Patrick Reed and Tommy Fleetwood to finish the year as the European Tour's No 1.
"It's going to be amazing coming back to Italy, and especially to Rome, as a Major champion," said Molinari.
"I love the Italian Open and the Italian fans that have supported it over all these years. I have played some of the best golf in my career across my country and to win a Rolex Series event at home in front of your family and friends, would be something truly special.
"Last year was just incredible and I cannot wait to be share that with everyone back home when we get there for the Italian Open. It is a fantastic event and I know this year will be even bigger coming back to Rome in the lead up to the 2022 Ryder Cup."
Molinari became the first Italian to win his national open twice since the event joined the European Tour International Schedule in 1972 and he will be targeting a third Italian Open title at the 76th edition of the historic tournament with the home crowd sure to cheer him on.
He came close to adding another Rolex Series victory to his name last year when he carded rounds 66-66-66-65 at Gardagolf Country Club to finish runner-up to his Ryder Cup team-mate Thorbjørn Olesen in the 2018 edition.
The Italian has enjoyed a solid start to the 2019 season, winning a third PGA Tour title at the Arnold Palmer Invitational before finishing tied fifth at the Masters tournament, his best career result at Augusta National to date, and inside the top 20 at last week's US Open.
Molinari added: "Olgiata is a great course and I'm looking forward to playing it again. To me the Italian Open is such a prestigious event and having its place as part of the Rolex Series only adds to the great history this tournament has in golf, and in sport in Italy."