April 9, 2019 / 4:04 PM / 12 days ago

Golf: Reigning Open champ Molinari hopes to extend hot streak

AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - The first time Francesco Molinari arrived at The Masters, he was in white overalls. This year, the British Open champion is hoping to walk away in a green jacket.

Francesco Molinari of Italy walks down the 6th fairway during practice for the 2019 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S., April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A caddie for his brother Edoardo in 2006, Molinari “carried the clubs and prayed that (Edoardo) was going to hit good shots,” the Italian told reporters on Tuesday.

“We were very inexperienced at this level and just trying to make the most of those two days.”

This year, the 36-year-old will hit the links as the Open Championship’s victor and a legitimate threat to take The Masters’ top prize.

“I’ve had a lot of success in the last few months, and I think that the important thing is that I don’t have to let my guard down,” Molinari said.

“I still have to go through all the work and the process that got me to this point, and hopefully will get me even further forward in my career.”

The world number seven has enjoyed a hot streak since becoming the first Italian professional golfer to win a major at the British Open in July, clinching the Ryder cup for Europe in September and winning the race to Dubai in November.

Most recently, the European Tour Golfer of the Year put on a putting master class to win March’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“It’s taken awhile, but obviously now success is coming quite often, and that’s a nice feeling,” Molinari said. “So I’ll try to keep working to keep the success coming.”

To do so this week he’ll need to contend with Augusta National’s famously challenging course, where his career best saw him tie for 19th in 2012.

Alongside his competitors, he’ll also grapple with a new fifth hole on the course.

“The second shot, obviously is longer, considerably longer,” said Molinari, who practiced on the front nine on Monday. “I think that’s going to be around a three‑club difference.”

Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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