PGA Tour

Molinari ready to challenge at Firestone

Francesco Molinari (Getty)
Francesco Molinari (Getty)

Cape Town - Francesco Molinari celebrated his Open Championship victory by sharing the Claret Jug with those who he says believed he was capable of becoming a Major champion long before he did.

The 35-year-old claimed his maiden Major title at Carnoustie last month, seeing off the challenge of Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy in the final round to win The Open, with the aforementioned all set to tee it up at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week.

"I know it's going to be a challenge, obviously now, to keep what I have going, and I'll see how well I can deal with that," said Molinari.

"Just a lot of work from the guys around me (has got me here), to be honest. They probably believed already, before the recent results, they believed in me more than I ever did. It's taken a long time for them to keep telling me and to help me achieve things that were shown to myself that I was that kind of player.

"I think for me personally, the key's always been results, but also, you know, when you go out on the course and you're playing with some of the best players in the world, you confront yourself with them."

Molinari enjoyed a scheduled holiday after his victory in Scotland and he chose to keep the celebrations low key, getting used to having the Claret Jug in his possession after a busy summer, which has already seen the Italian win the European PGA Championship, The Open and the Quicken Loans National in America.

Four-time Major winner McIlroy is hoping history repeats itself as Firestone Country Club plays host for the last time before the tournament moves to Memphis next year.

The Northern Irishman tasted victory at this event in 2014 in between winning The Open at Royal Liverpool and the US PGA Championship at Valhalla, and with the tournament set to move on from Ohio next year McIlroy, who finished in a tie for second at The Open two weeks ago, is keen to put in another strong performance this week.

"This has always been one of my favourite weeks of the year. I'm sort of sad it's going to be the last one here. I've always played great here. I use it as a week to try and work on my game and if I get myself into contention, then that's just a bonus," said McIlroy.

McIlroy came from behind to see off the challenge of Sergio Garcia on Sunday afternoon as he lifted the trophy four years ago and he credited the fast start he made to his final round as the catalyst.

READ: Woods has sights on 9th title at 'special' Firestone

World No 50 Woods heads to Akron fresh from finishing in a share of sixth place at The Open two weeks ago, returning to Firestone Country Club for the first time since 2014, with the last of his eight wins at this venue coming in 2013.

The 14-time Major champion feels he is in good shape and ready to win again after recovering from a long-term injury.

"I'm excited to be back. I haven't played in a few years, but it certainly wasn't exactly easy to get back in this event," said Woods.

"I've had to play well this year and I'm just really excited about being back here and playing the South course.

"I've always been a fan of this golf course ever since I first played here in 1997. I've always enjoyed it."

Meanwhile, world No 2 Justin Rose has withdrawn from the event due to a back injury, with the Englishman's focus to remain healthy ahead of the US PGA Championship next week.

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