Saturday, 20 July, 2019


McIlroy: 'Portrush Open is a once in a lifetime opportunity'

Royal Portrush course guide Rory McIlroy sees Royal Portrush as 'once in a lifetime' opportunity
Noah Ferguson | 11 July, 2019, 21:41

Rory McIlroy knows he will carry the hopes of a nation when golf's oldest major returns to Northern Ireland next week.

In his last Scottish Open appearance at Dundonald Links in 2017, the four-time major victor missed the cut and, though he then finished fourth in The Open at Royal Birkdale the following week, he had already put plans in place to shut down his season early that year so that he could give himself the best possible chance to try and get back to the scintilating form that saw him dominant the game when landing two majors and a WGC in the summer of 2014.

"Hopefully not. Hopefully it's a huge success and it becomes part of The Open rota".

"I've achieved basically everything I wanted to in this game", the 30-year-old said. I think most tournaments deserve to stand on their own two feet and have some stature, and the Scottish Open is one of these events on the European Tour.

"There are a couple of things I'd still like to do". His affinity with the Dunluce Links course goes back to his time spent there as a youth watching his father, Gerry, play the course in the annual North of Ireland Amateur.

"I hit three great shots into those two holes and I think those two holes are going to be pivotal in the result of the Open Championship".

"I want to enjoy it, I want to enjoy the experience".

"I still have to enjoy it".

Rory McIlroy wouldn't trade his season for that of world No 1 Brooks Koepka, who defended the US PGA Championship and finished runner-up at the Masters and US Open.

"Smell the roses. Look around". Look around. See friends and family.

"You're never going to see me posting any videos at one o'clock in the morning, that's for sure. The more I can enjoy that, roll with it and play with that freedom, the better I think I can do".

McIlroy, who is playing this week for the first time since last month's US Open at Pebble Beach, visited Portrush at the weekend for a practice round.

The Northern Irishman's participation in the Scottish Open is also a tried and tested formula.

"I'm playing this event with two eyes firmly focused on the Scottish Open".

"I was saying to someone yesterday, I expected it to feel different than it did", he said. "I'd rather play to win". When I try to put extra emphasis on tournaments, it nearly goes the other way for me. I think if I do that, that's the best way to prepare for next week.

"It's amusing. I keep thinking back and in that stretch of golf there's two tough holes, the 14th (Calamity Corner), which is now the 16th, and then the old 16th, which is now the 18th".

The Portrush Sons of Ulster has organised a concert for six flute bands on the Saturday evening of the Open, a matter the R&A claimed to the Guardian it had "no position" on. So I was sort of a little: 'Do I really need to refamiliarise myself with this place; how much time do I need to spend?' When I got on the first tee, everything sort of started coming back to me: On the second tee, I aim it at the brown house, everything started to come back.

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