The Englishman had recorded just one top ten on the 2020 Race to Dubai before he finished second at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and followed up that result with a win seven days later here at The Renaissance Club.
He once again arrives in North Berwick off the back of a best result of the season on the island of Ireland and, having seen the coronavirus pandemic strip him of the chance to defend the Hong Kong Open title he won in the 2019 season, he is relishing a maiden European Tour defence.
"Last week was very solid, the best I've played all year to date," he said. "So to have that this week is nice, a little more comfortable with the things we're doing and it's good to see the game is getting there for sure. So you can definitely take that coming into this week.
"Ultimately every week is slightly different. You never know how it's going to pan out, so it's definitely a layer of confidence going into it but we'll see what happens this week.
"It definitely is a little bit different to last year for instance. In previous years, I could definitely go under the radar a little bit more.
"But it's a great thing as well. It shows I've had a period of success. I've played well on this course.
"And to have those memories and to have certain things to draw on about course knowledge with certain pin positions and certain situations that we find ourselves in over the last year and even the year before that in 2019, certainly helps regardless of added pressure, regardless of being defending champion.
"And ultimately that's the most important thing because when we tee it up tomorrow, it makes no difference whether you won it last year or you came in last. Everyone starts at exactly the same start point and it's purely about how well we do over the next four days."
Rai has secured just one top ten - in Scotland at the 2020 Scottish Championship presented by AXA - since his victory last year and while he admits results have not been as he would have wanted, he believes he has learned from the experience.
"I think in terms of results, it's definitely been close to the side of stalling," he said. "Been a couple of good results but it's been quite mixed over the last few months.
"In terms of results it could have been better for sure but I've also learned a lot in that period, through some period of maybe not playing well through trying to figure a couple of things out.
"So it's not a period that I would have changed at all. Been a lot of great learnings.
"It's nice to be back this week and we'll see how things go. Certainly helps being in a familiar place and, yeah, we'll see."