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Defending champ Molinari leads the Rolex challenge

Rolex Testimonee Francesco Molinari tees off at The Open, 2018.

Rolex Testimonees Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth at Augusta National Golf Club.

OVER the last two years, Rolex Testimonee Francesco Molinari has shot into prominence with some stupendous showings in the international golf tournaments.

He recorded his fifth European Tour win and first Rolex Series titles in May 2018, with victory in the European Tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship. In the same year, he later, won the Quicken Loans National in overwhelming fashion by firing a 62 on the final day to win by eight strokes.

Then he won British Open, a victory that moved him into sixth in the world rankings. Then came the sensational Ryder Cup showing when Europe defeated the United States 171/2 to 10 ½ when Molinari became the first player ever to go 5-0-0.

In November last year, he won the season-long Race To Dubai crown on the European Tour, which gave him US$1.25 million.

This year's honours started with the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March after a brilliant 64 on the final day and the following month he was the 54-hole leader after a 66 at the Masters.

But disaster struck when he found water twice and ended with a 74 to finish tied-fifth, still his best performance at the Masters to date.

That being the backdrop, how can you not consider the idolised Italian from defending his British Open title at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland this week?

And what is more important is that he has carried the Rolex flag with pride, probably making baby steps into the world of the Big Three of legends and Rolex Testimonees Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, underlining the Swiss watch brand's enduring relationship with golf that began in 1967.

With a span of over 50 years, the association between Rolex and golf is steeped in quality, reliability and pioneering spirit that has seen a long list of Rolex Testimonees winning The Open, namely Nicklaus (1966, 1970, 1978), Palmer (1961, 1962), Player (1959, 1968, 1974), Tom Watson (1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983), Nick Price (1994), Tiger Woods (2000, 2005, 2006), Phil Mickelson (2013), Jordan Spieth (2017) and Molinari (2018).

Now the baton is gradually being passed on to Rolex New Guard members Spieth, fellow Americans Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, Daniel Berger, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and England's Matthew Fitzpatrick.