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Morelli's must wait as in-demand Francesco Molinari gears up for Open defence at Royal Portrush

Francesco Molinari speaks to the media ahead of his title defence at the 148th Open Championship held at Royal Portrush Golf Club (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Francesco Molinari speaks to the media ahead of his title defence at the 148th Open Championship held at Royal Portrush Golf Club (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Defending Open champion Francesco Molinari admitted he was flattered by Morelli's recreation of him, but that he unfortunately won't get time to go and see it in person.

The famous Portrush ice cream shop revealed that they had recreated the golfer's likeness using ice cream sprinkles ahead of the defence of his Major title at Royal Portrush this week.

The recreation hangs on the back wall of the shop and visitors have flocked from far and wide to see the masterpiece ahead of this week's tournament.

Unfortunately, the man himself will not be one of them, as Molinari regretfully admitted that he will probably not find the time to make even a fleeting visit to the parlour.

"I don't have any plans (to visit it) now, it's a busy week, but my family are coming out later in the week with the kids so they'll be happy to get ice cream," the Italian said, before joking: "They might not even notice what's on the wall!"

Understandably, it's a very busy week for the in-demand champion golfer, who currently holds the Claret Jug after his superb display at Carnoustie a year ago.

The 36-year-old will be one of the favourites on the Dunluce links, particularly since he is one of the few players in the field to have experience of Portrush from the Irish Open in 2012.

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Although it was Jamie Donaldson who won then, Molinari came a very respectable 10th, and he's banking on a similar knowledge helping him to retain his title this time around.

"It would be incredible (to defend the title), obviously. I'm well aware of the challenges ahead because anybody is capable of winning the trophy," he added.

"All I can do is try my best, put up a good defence and be in contention on Sunday. I need to know the course better and see what we're going to face.

"I remember most of the holes. 17 and 18 are not there anymore but I remember a strong golf course, mostly positional, like most links courses it's not one you can overpower.

"I need to go out and see the conditions to give a better statement but my caddy has been here since Friday. I'm looking forward to getting out there and seeing it for myself."

One of the things he remembers most, however, is the reception he received back in 2012, and Molinari is expecting something similar when he tees it up alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott on Thursday.

Someone who has always been complimentary of the Irish crowds, Molinari reveals that the atmosphere in 2012 is one of the best he's ever experienced - and he's been the poster boy at a Ryder Cup!

"In 2012 I played with Darren Clarke the first two rounds, the champion golfer at the time, and the first hole had lines of people all the way up to the green," the World No.7 recalls.

"The roar he got on the first tee was the loudest I've ever heard it on the golf course and it went on both days, even in the rain. It was the atmosphere, welcoming Darren back with the Claret Jug, and that's a taste of what we're going to get this week.

"I think not just me but everyone in the field is looking forward to that."

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