Cape Town - World No 25 Francesco Molinari has confirmed his participation in the Italian Open, the second event of the season on the European Tour's Race to Dubai, at Gardagolf Country Club from May 31-June 3.
Two years ago, Molinari became the first Italian to win his national Open twice since the event joined the European Tour in 1972 and he will be targeting a third Italian Open title at the 75th edition of the historic tournament - which will for the first time take place immediately following the PGA Championship at Wentworth Club.
The 35-year-old finished ninth in the Race to Dubai Rankings last season and will be hoping a continuation of his solid form, allied with an outstanding record in his home country of six top ten finishes which includes his two victories in 2006 and 2016, will help him in his quest for a first Rolex Series triumph.
"Two wins at my home event is already pretty special but obviously three would be even more special," said the four-time European Tour winner.
"Last year, I think it was a pretty honourable defence of the title and it just didn't quite happen for me on Sunday. With a new course this year, I will have to get used to that but I am sure it’s going to be exciting again.
"It is a week that you circle in red in the calendar and for me it is a special week. I've had success in the past and I have enjoyed a lot of support from the home crowds the last few years, so I am looking forward to being back again.
"I think May is a very good date for Italy and hopefully we will have a nice week full of sunshine, and it will be a fun week for everyone."
Returning to the picturesque surroundings of Lake Garda for the first time in 15 years, the Turin born star is excited by the challenge of a new course for the prestigious tournament, as the Italian Open continues to flourish as one of the eight tournaments which form the prestigious - the premium category of tournaments on the European Tour's international schedule, all with a minimum prize fund of $7 million.
"I haven't been there in a long time, obviously it is Matteo's (Manassero) and Nino's (Bertasio) home course, and I played the Italian Open there in 2003," said Molinari. "It is a good course, pretty hilly, parkland with beautiful scenery just beside the lake, so I'm sure it's going to be a great week.
"The prestige of the event is much bigger and I think that everyone looks forward to every Rolex Series event. It's big money, you can really make your move on the Race to Dubai and it will be even more exciting this year straight after Wentworth with two big weeks, one after the other."
Nestled between the famous Rocca di Manerba, Soiano Castle and the Valtenesi hills of Northern Italy, Gardagolf Country Club has produced some memorable golfing moments, with the venue last hosting the Italian Open in 2003 when Sweden's Mathias Grönberg claimed a two-stroke victory.