He may now live stateside with his American wife, but there’s no doubt that Rory McIlroy will receive a hero’s welcome when he returns to his native Northern Ireland to compete in The Open Championship next month. Held at Royal Portrush Golf Course for the first time since 1951, what a return it would be for McIlroy if he went on to win the major for a second time, and the first time in front of a home crowd. You’ll find McIlroy at odds of 7/1F in Open Championship betting odds, with Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods behind him on 9s.
Previous success on Dunluce
McIlroy has already teed up on Dunluce Links, the course on which the Open is being played. At the age of 16, he arrived fresh out of school and was chasing a spot on the Walker Cup team. The course record at the time was 64, and he managed to surpass it, with a competitive score of 61. Two years later, he made the Walker Cup team and turned professional – and as they say, the rest is history.
While the course has undergone a number of changes in the years since, including increasing in length by 130 yards, 10 new bunkers and the creation of two new holes, McIlroy is confident in his ability to return to home soil as champion:
“I shot 62 at Quail Hollow in 2010 on the old set-up and then they went and redesigned it and I went back in 2015 and shot 61 on the new course.
“Hopefully the same things happen at Royal Portrush. I hold the record on the old course, but it would be special to come back to The Open and break it on the new one”.
Lifting the Claret Jug at Hoylake
It was in 2014 that McIlroy last won the Open Championship, with the competition being held at Royal Liverpool that year. It’s his only Open win to date. In fact, since his (second) victory in the PGA Championship that same year, in August, McIlroy is yet to add to his major championship tally.
The 2014 Open saw McIlroy hold a lead over his opponents after every round of putting and he was triumphant over Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia by two strokes with both golfers T2.
On winning, McIlroy said: "It wasn't easy - there were a few guys making runs at me and I just needed to stay focused. To win three legs of the Grand Slam at 25 is a pretty big achievement”.
He has since remained one major win away from a career Grand Slam – The Masters the only tournament to evade him.
Skipping the European Tour
Earlier this year, McIlroy caused controversy when he revealed he wouldn’t be participating in the Irish Open, as well as only competing in the minimum required number of European Tour events to maintain his membership and ensure he remains eligible for the Ryder Cup. His reasoning behind the decision was to keep himself fresh and in the best possible stead for success at the Open in Portrush. Despite this, he is set to tee-off at the Scottish Open which takes place the week before the third major of the calendar year. Speaking to BBC Sport Northern Ireland, he said: "If I was to play the Irish Open, The Open Championship would be my third event in a row.
"For me, that's not the best way to prepare for what could be the biggest event of my life.
"I never thought I would play a major in Northern Ireland. It would be the biggest achievement of my career if I was able to win it".