With grandstands under construction and spring in full bloom, The 148th Open at Royal Portrush is finally swinging into view.
The world’s oldest major is now less than three months away and those who already know they are teeing it up at Royal Portrush are scrambling to find their best form.
They are all out to do one thing, take the Claret Jug from reigning Champion Golfer of the Year Francesco Molinari – but some things are easier said than done.
The Italian played just twice in April but he again showed that he will take some beating this summer by going closer to adding the Masters to his growing trophy cabinet.
Molinari has also mapped out his route to Royal Portrush by finalising his summer schedule in what has been another busy month.
Although Tiger Woods ultimately left Augusta National with his fifth Green Jacket, Molinari pushed him all the way in the season’s opening major.
The Italian led at the end of the third round and dropped just one shot in 54 holes as he made his way to 13-under-par.
Scores of 70, 67 and 66 moved him into contention, only for Woods to power through on the back nine – leaving Molinari in tie for fifth.
However, that performance – plus victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March – shows the current Champion Golfer of the Year is in fine touch ahead of The 148th Open.
“I'm proud of everything I did today,” Molinari said after his fourth round.
“I didn't play my best golf but I fought hard. It probably came down to one bad swing and one bad decision -- trying to go for the flag on 15 from the left side.
“We'll never know, if it doesn't clip the branch. But maybe I should have gone for the middle of the green and try to make something happen on the last three holes.”
Rest and recuperation
Molinari followed up his Augusta adventure with an appearance at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina but he finished up at four-over through two rounds and missed the cut.
He is now in the midst of a long mid-season break and he will not tee it up again until the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, from May 16-19.
However, like any perfectionist, he has spent much of his time on the range.
Camped out at The Wisley in the Surrey countryside, he has been put through his paces by performance coach Dave Alred – a man Molinari credited as key in his surge to the Claret Jug last summer.
Using sequencing to disrupt flow and challenge the ability to keep re-setting – living on the verge of ugly (that’s where progress lives!)
Winding up for The Open
The PGA Championship is one of just four more tournaments Molinari plans to compete in between now and The Open.
Straight after teeing it up in New York, Molinari will head south to Texas to play at the Fort Worth Invitational, where he will hope to take the trophy off Justin Rose at Colonial.
That leads nicely into the third major of the year, the US Open, which will run from 13-16 June at Pebble Beach.
Molinari will be able to get back into the swing of links golf on California’s rugged coastline, with the famous old course offering a perfect chance to warm-up for what is to come at Royal Portrush.
Molinari will again play straight after a major and head to the Travelers Championship in Connecticut in what is due to be his last appearance before heading to Royal Portrush.