It’s still five years in the making, but Italy already has Ryder Cup fever. On Dec. 14, 2015, Italy was awarded the right to host the 2022 Ryder Cup. The biennial match between 12-man teams representing the United States and Europe is scheduled to take place in Rome at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, marking the third time that the competition will be played outside of Britain.
In the meantime, the Italian Open continues to grow in stature and is the centerpiece of the “Road to Rome” promotional effort. The 74th edition of Italy’s national championship returns Thursday to the Golf Club Milano for the ninth time. Defending champion Francesco Molinari shares what makes it one of his favorite weeks of the year.
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A Star-Studded Field
The elevated status of the Italian Open to become one of the eight Rolex Series events offering a purse of $7 million has attracted a star-studded 132-man field, including six major winners scheduled to compete: the reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, José María Olazábal and Trevor Immelman. As of Oct. 8, 24 competitors are among the top 100 in the world ranking, including Jon Rahm of Spain at No. 5. There will also be 21 players who have represented Europe in the Ryder Cup, most notably Thomas Bjorn, who will lead the European side in Paris in 2018.
“A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to predict the Italian Open would become such a big event on the European Tour,” Molinari said.
In addition to Molinari, his brother, Edoardo, Matteo Manassero, the Nordea Masters champ Renato Paratore and Nino Bertasio are scheduled to represent the home nation along with the amateurs Lorenzo Scalise and Stefano Mazzoli. In all about a dozen Italians are scheduled to compete in the tournament.
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“We’ve always had two to four guys on Tour, but it would be nice to see that number go to 10 or 12,” Francesco Molinari said. “I think that could make a difference in how popular golf will be in Italy. People tend to watch you more on TV if they see players from their own country week in and week out.”