PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (AP) — Golf’s oldest championship is all about tradition, and this is one Francesco Molinari could have done without.
Fifty-one weeks after he won the British Open and gazed at his name etched on the silver claret jug, he had to return it.
Getting it back won’t be easy.
“I’m well aware of the challenges ahead,” Molinari said Monday on the first day of official practice at Royal Portrush. “There’s a lot of guys capable this week of winning the trophy. All I can do is do my best, try to put up a good defense and be in contention on Sunday. It’s a long week ahead, so I’ll try to take it step-by-step.”
The first order of business was getting to know the links.
Molinari was among the 21 players who played the Irish Open in 2012 at Royal Portrush. The sharp elevation, sensational views of the limestone cliffs known as White Rocks and the Dunluce Castle in the distance, it all looked familiar. But it’s not quite the same course.
The Royal & Ancient wanted two new holes — Nos. 7 and 8 — to weave into the century-old links so that the final two holes could be used for concessions and promotional…