McIlroy relishing Open Championship at 'spectacular' Royal Portrush

Kiradech Aphibarant of Thailand

Winning the Open at Royal Portrush a 'once in a lifetime' chance for McIlroy

McIlroy, who tees off this afternoon alongside Rickie Fowler and Oban's Robert MacIntyre, opted against playing last week's Irish Open at Lahinch, instead making a visit to Royal Portrush to familiarise himself with the track where he set the course record 61 in the North of Ireland Championship as a 16-year-old.

"It's spectacular, it's unbelievable". "I wouldn't trade, no, ' said McIlroy".

"It's bigger, it's tougher and obviously all the infrastructure out there".

"I want to get myself in contention and have a chance to win the golf tournament".

McIlroy is headlining the field this week at the Scottish Open, where he told reporters Wednesday his sole focus is on lifting the trophy at Renaissance.

It is only the second occasion that the Open has been staged in Northern Ireland and the first time since 1951, but McIlroy is determined to enjoy a week which he never thought would happen.

"The success of Darren, Graeme, myself and Padraig as well was part of the reason why the R&A wanted to come here, and also the work done by the [club general manager] Wilma Erskine and the people of Portrush".

McIlroy couldn't get it going over the weekend in his most recent start, tying for ninth at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. This is a very important event to me. "It's a big event". "That's one of the things we do, I want to go and storm the castle".

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.

"He obviously does put a lot of extra emphasis on the majors and it works for him, but when I try to put extra emphasis on tournaments, it nearly goes the other way for me". I need to relax and I need to just sort of let it go. It felt like just the same old golf course that I grew up playing and it was nice.

Bidding to land a first home win since Colin Montgomerie did the trick at Loch Lomond in 1999, 15 Scots are in the field, with an added incentive for the likes of Richie Ramsay, Stephen Gallacher, David Law and Grant Forrest coming in the shape of three Open Championship spots on offer for the leading players not already exempt if they can finish in the top 10 on Sunday evening.

"I expected it to feel different than it did", he said.

"The more I can enjoy that and roll with it and play with that freedom, the better I think I can do". "So if I can have that familiar feeling and that leads to certainty in my game and certainty in what I'm trying to do next week, that's a good thing".

"I'm here fully focused on this event".

"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".

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