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Steve Webster boosted by Seve lesson

Briton Steve Webster will begin the defence of his Italian Open title on Thursday boosted by a ringing endorsement from Seve Ballesteros.

The 31-year-old Englishman ended a 10-year wait for his maiden European Tour win when he romped to a three-stroke victory 12 months ago at Castello di Tolcinasco near Milan, a display he credited to encouragement from Ballesteros.

Webster has again turned to his boyhood hero for help as he bids to become the first player in 75 years to win the tournament in consecutive seasons.

Ballesteros gave him a lesson on his short game during last week's Spanish Open and the five-times major champion was full of praise for his pupil.

"He told me I was good enough to contend, even in the majors, so I know I have to get my head down and try to win a couple of times in Europe and get into the top 50 in the world," Webster told the tour's official website on Tuesday.

"I am a little disappointed I have not kicked on since winning in Italy last year. I have made a lot of top-20 finishes but I have to convert them into top fives and top 10s so I am in contention to win."

The favourite this week is world number 25 Angel Cabrera, who won last year's BMW Championship at Wentworth.

The big-hitting Argentine arrives in Italy in good heart after finishing tied eighth at last month's U.S. Masters.

Edoardo Molinari is likely to receive a hero's welcome when he tees up in his home Open for the first time since he became the first European to win the U.S. Amateur championship since 1911.

Molinari, who lifted the U.S. Amateur trophy in August, also played in last month's Masters, enjoying the honour of partnering world number one Tiger Woods in the first two rounds.

Emanuele Canonica, winner of the 2005 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, and former Ryder Cup player Costantino Rocca lead the challenge for a first home victory since Massimo Mannelli in 1980.



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