Molinari became the first Italian player to win a major when he claimed the Open Championship at Carnoustie last year, which followed victory in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and a maiden PGA Tour title in the Quicken Loans National.
The 36-year-old then became the first European player to compile a perfect 5-0 record in the Ryder Cup victory at Le Golf National, having already teamed up with Tommy Fleetwood to become the first European pair to win all four of their matches together.
Molinari ended 2018 by winning the European Tour’s Race to Dubai for the first time and has carried on where he left off in 2019, with victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and third place in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
“To be honest, I’ve achieved my dream, that was winning the Open last year,” Molinari said in a teleconference to promote his Open title defence at Royal Portrush in July. “I’ve achieved another dream that was to be one of the best players of the Ryder Cup and help Europe win the trophy back.
“For me winning is a huge motivation and spurs me on to do even more, and that’s what I’ve done this winter, working as hard as I have ever done. And I think you can see the way I’m playing that I didn’t settle, I didn’t stop.
“The dream is to keep improving. I feel like I haven’t reached my limit yet. The dream is to see how far I can go and hopefully get as many wins as possible along the way.”
While Portrush has not staged the Open itself since 1951, Molinari does have experience of the course - apart from the two new holes - after playing there in the 2012 Irish Open.
“I remember playing there the year after Darren (Clarke) had won the Open Championship and being paired with Darren the first round,” Molinari added.
“It was something I still remember, so I can only imagine what the Open is going to be; it is going to be even bigger, obviously, going back to Northern Ireland after so many years. Defending is always special, but defending in a place where the tournament has not been for so long I’m sure is going to be extra special.
“I’ve planned for a couple of weeks off before to try and prepare as good as I can and show up there giving me the best chance possible. Being a competitor, I want to do well.
“No matter how it goes, it might be the only time in my career that I get to defend a major title, you never know. So, I need to make the most of it and enjoy the reception I get from the crowd and just, yeah, you know, let it sink in even more.”