The 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in numbers


"Never in a million years did I think that an Open Championship would be played again at Royal Portrush", McIlroy said.

The four-time major victor, who shot a course-record 61 there at the age of 16, will be the home favourite at the links in Northern Ireland, which he says has improved significantly since his younger days.

Irishman Shane Lowry and Englishman Matt Wallace will attract support, but we sense their best golf might have already come earlier in the year.

Rory McIlroy claimed his sixth victory in a national Open in Canda a month ago and would be a happy bunny if it became a "magnificent seven" in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club near Gullane this weekend.

McIlroy and Portrush native Graeme McDowell will be the centre of attention on home soil, but McIlroy is taking great confidence from his recent Open record as he tries to lift the Claret Jug for a second time and end a five-year major drought.

"I went Saturday not really knowing what to expect, thinking how much have they changed it and how different it is going to feel", he added.

"I want to enjoy it, I want to enjoy the experience". "I'm in a very lucky position (although) there's a couple of things I'd still like to do".

"If I go back to when I was just starting off, and said to myself, "Okay, in ten years" time, this is what you've achieved and this is where you're going to be in the game, how would you go out and play?' And I'm sure I'd say, well, I'd like to go out and not have a care in the world". "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".

"I'm here fully focused on this event and getting out there and playing well this week and trying to get myself in
the mix", insisted the world
No 4, the highest-ranked player in a star-studded field for
the $7 million Rolex Series tournament in East Lothian.

"It might be another 61 years until Portrush gets The Open, so go out and enjoy it. Smell the roses".

"The last 10 years have been a dream and I think one of the big things for me next week is to enjoy the experience". Look around. See friends and family.

"I'm sort of treating it like a once in a lifetime opportunity". That's how I play my best golf. It's good to get back here and re-familiarise myself with links golf. "That's the best way to prepare for next week, to feel the heat of competition". "It's not as if I'm trying to replicate shots or different things here that I might be doing in Portrush".

But he has no plans to heap further pressure on himself by putting all his focus on the majors in the style of Brooks Koepka, the world No 1 who seems to save all his effort for the four big events.