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

Friday, 19 Jul, 2019

Here, PA looks at what to expect from day one of the season's final major.

A visibly delighted Darren Clarke hit the opening shot this morning at the much-anticipated Open Championship at Royal Portrush. The course's two most challenging holes are along the Atlantic Ocean.

Purse: $10.75 million. Winner's share: $1,935,000.

Rory McIlroy opens as the favorite - despite the fact that Brooks Koepka has either won or finished second in each of the past four majors.

And maybe it's what will turn this most fiery of golfers into a major champion this week at Royal Portrush. Of course, it also means that it will be a pure test of links golf, with all a player's potential shortcomings fully visible to the world. "Making the cut or not doesn't make the difference".

He explained: "I remember when Rory shot the 61 - I thought, "wow, that's a serious score" and that he was a serious, serious player".

The British Open - or the Open Championship for purists - is arguably golf's greatest championship.

The 29-year-old's caddie is Portrush local Ricky Elliott, who Koepka says would become a "legend" in the town if he helps the American clinch a first Open title.

"I think that just gave me a confidence boost when it comes to that event and that's why I've been able to do it the last few years". "It would be cool to see him win".

He won a secondary tournament in the Dominican Republic early this year to move up in the rankings, then made a curling 30-footer on the final hole at the Canadian Open to secure his spot.

McIlroy returned home the weekend before the Scottish Open to get a full day of preparation.

A quarter of a million spectators are expected at the course this week as the Open Championship returns to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951. However, he hasn't contended in a major since winning the Masters earlier this year.

"It's a huge thing to have it back here and it's going to be an fantastic tournament".

Reigning Open champion Franceso Molinari will launch his defence by stepping out alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott, with the trio setting off at 9:58am.

The hole-in-one put Grillo at even par. His only blunder was a shot off the hosel of his club on the par-5 seventh that squirted so far right he had to take an unplayable lie from thick grass. I will just be proud that we have the Open back here in Northern Ireland. He piped it, and then he went on to birdie the first (and the third and the fifth). The hazard is a nod to the famous "Big Nelly" bunker that was on the 17th, which has been lost.