Former Open champion Francesco Molinari admits he is still some way off his best as he prepares to defend his title in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Molinari carded a brilliant closing 64 at Bay Hill last year to claim a two-shot victory over England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, but has not recorded a single top-10 finish since a tie for fifth in the Masters last April.
The 37-year-old Italian, who held a two-shot lead at Augusta National before finding water twice in the last seven holes, has slipped from a career-high of fifth to 26th in the world rankings.
“I’m a little bit behind where I was planning to be at this time,” Molinari said in his pre-tournament press conference.
“The start of the season has not been as good as I hoped for, but it’s only the start.
“There’s been a few physical things and technical things but I’m working through it. I think I’ve got some good planning for the next few weeks building up to Augusta and some good direction to work towards.
“In golf it’s never too easy because there’s a part of you that always makes you think you’re close even when you’re not. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly close right now.
“My expectations going into the next few weeks are really to build up some momentum and get better day by day and not really thinking too far ahead of myself.
“There’s work that I need to do to be physically better and fitter than I am right now and technically to be sharper.”
Molinari started the season with three straight missed cuts before finishing tied for 53rd in the WGC-Mexico Championship, an event that has no cut.
“I have a different maybe point of view from many people, but I think that the mental side has been one of the strongest points in the last few months,” Molinari added.
“I think mentally I’m ready to go. I’m in a good place and ready to compete, but obviously I think that’s kind of the last stage. You need to have your best game and to be physically a hundred per cent to be able to compete.”