McIlroy: Open's return to Northern Ireland 'bigger than me'

Tanya Simon
July 19, 2019

Woods, in Northern Ireland for this week's Open Championship, gave sport a comeback story for the ages when he won the Masters in April, two years after suggesting his career was effectively over due to a series of injuries.

A big cat hasn't attracted this much attention in north Antrim since they closed the lion enclosure at the safari park in Dervock, but the man himself was in a laid-back and jovial mood.

"We all know that this country sometimes needs that". There's no difference. It's the same golf course.

He shot a course-record 61 as a 16-year-old in the 2005 North of Ireland Amateur and, with Open finishes of fifth, fourth and second in the last three years, is the bookies' favourite to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday. Picture by David Davies/PA Wire.

Koepka has excelled over the last couple of years with Elliott on his bag, particularly at the major tournaments.

Asked about the state of his game, he candidly admitted: "It's not quite as sharp as I'd like to have it right now". And maybe that environment is what I need.

"Last time we stayed in Portrush, actually on Kerr Street, but this year it's a little bit busier than two years ago", the world number eight said.

Despite competing on home soil in Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy said there's no added pressure to win this week's Open Championship at Royal Portrush. "And I know if I keep doing that, then the wins will come and everything else sort of just falls into place".

'So this year I made a conscious effort to cut back on my schedule.

"The great thing is playing in an Open Championship, you can do it. Look what Tom [Watson] did at Turnberry, what Greg [Norman] did at Birkdale".

Today, with the Open at its door and ranked seventh in Golf Digest's list of the world's top courses, it has a turnover of $4.9 million and is on the bucket list of every golfing tourist, Erskine told a BBC documentary "Road to the Open". You just have to navigate the bunkers and navigate around the golf course.

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Not so long ago the notion of staging a huge sporting event such as the Open Championship in a land infamous for bloodshed and violence was unthinkable.

Even more impressive, of course, is the recent run of Brooks Koepka in majors.

Woods revealed he has attempted to tap into some of the methods his fellow American has been using, but to no avail. The infrastructure economically here in Portrush, I've never seen the town look so great. I've played well here for the last few years. To be so consistent, so solid.

"There's no right or wrong answer, which is hard for an athlete, especially one who has such a high profile like Rory".

While some may quibble with Koepka's approach, it has worked out for him.

"The people have been absolutely fantastic".

"We used to come over here all the time with the late Payne Stewart and [Mark] O'Meara, and we used to go fishing all around Ireland and play golf and enjoy coming over here and playing". I'm still going to try to go out and shoot good scores and concentrate and do all the right things. I want to play here as long as I possibly can and you have to understand if I play a lot, I won't be out here that long'.

"I haven't had a lot of time".

"I think we're going to see a stronger wind, a little bit more out of the west tomorrow". A crowd of 237,750 will have poured through the gates by the time the Champion Golfer of the Year is determined on Sunday night. I mean, the obvious political struggles that we had in the 70s, 80s, 90s, I was too young to really grasp the magnitude and the reasons and be able to comprehend what the solutions were back in those days. "Let's take it one step at a time".

That certainly would be a rather big deal.

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