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Molinari's title defence off to a rough start while Sergio and Simpson shine



Slow start: Reigning Open champion Franceso Molinari has misfired

Slow start: Reigning Open champion Franceso Molinari has misfired

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Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia



Slow start: Reigning Open champion Franceso Molinari has misfired

Defending champion Francesco Molinari failed to hide his frustration after he struggled to an opening three-over 74 in the first round of his Open title defence.

After opening with a birdie at the second, a tough stretch saw the Italian drop five shots between the sixth and 12th, although he did at least salvage a shot with a birdie at the 14th.

However, it means that Molinari is already eight shots off leader J.B. Holmes after one round as he aims to reclaim the title that he won at Carnoustie last year.

"That was not the first round I was looking for," admitted the European Ryder Cup hero.

"I started well and then just between 8 and 12 lost four shots too easily. Especially on 8, after a good tee shot in the middle of the fairway with a wedge in my hands, I wasn't obviously expecting a double bogey.

"It was costly today, but I'll try to learn from today and do better tomorrow."

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Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia was delighted with how he performed in tricky conditions around the Dunluce links, carding a three-under par 68 to kick off his tournament.

The Spaniard has suffered a rough patch of form, sliding from inside the world's top-10 to 36th in the rankings in the space of a year.

However, he has shown signs of reinvigoration recently, with a top-10 finish at his home Andalucia Masters recently, and he carried it into his first round at Royal Portrush, carding four birdies to go with just the one bogey.

"I'm very satisfied with the way I played and the way that the day went," said a beaming Garcia.

"It was a solid day. Like I said, it wasn't easy out there. It was quite windy all day. There were some really tough holes, and obviously on the back nine.

"The crowds are so amazing here, so respectful and so excited to watch us play. The mix of all those things and some of these amazing courses that we play here, it makes up for a great Championship."

Elsewhere, Webb Simpson declared himself a massive fan of Royal Portrush after he shot a three-under 68 to lie just two off the lead after the opening round.

The former US Open champion was in the lead for a while when he got to five-under par after 13 holes, however two bogeys to close at 17 and 18 caused him to drop back into the chasing pack.

But that finish didn't deter him from praising the Dunluce links, revealing that the course has unanimous support within the playing ranks.

"I think the difference (between Portrush and the other Open venues) is it's more undulating than what we're used to," explained Simpson.

"Most of the courses we play are pretty much dead flat, this has more undulation. But it still feels very linksy.

"I love it. It's one of the few courses that every player who's played it that I've talked to this year, they all loved it. Usually you'll have both sides but everybody loved it.

"My expectations were pretty high. I've been impressed.

"I think we all love fair golf courses. Anytime we get to a place that doesn't seem fair or tricked up, we don't like it, and this course is very much right in front of you.

"They're great fans over here at every Open. But I know they're pretty passionate, not having been here in so long. They've been great."

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