Rory McIlroy says he feels right at home at Royal Portrush as he looks forward to the Open Championship next week.
The final major of the season takes place in Northern Ireland beginning on Thursday and it is a course McIlroy knows well. Aged just 16 he set a course record there with a round of 61 and although its layout has changed somewhat in the years since, it still feels familiar territory to the four-time major winner.
On his return to his native country, McIlroy said: “The stands are up and it looks fantastic, but it’s still the same course. I haven’t played it much the last few years. We played the Irish Open there in 2012. I played the new holes in 2017 and played 18 holes in October.”
As well as nostalgia however, McIlroy is back in the UK with the intention of competing again and seeking to end a five-year wait for a fifth major, his last success being the PGA Championship in 2014.
He is taking part in this week’s Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick and, never having won a tournament in Scotland, is treating this week’s event seriously, in its own right as well as being a warm-up for Royal Portrush. “First and foremost I want to play well here,” he added.
“I want to get myself into contention and have a chance to win. I think if I do that, that’s the best way to prepare for next week. Feel the heat of getting in there on Sunday and trying to play some good golf.”
McIlroy has two tournament wins on the PGA Tour this year; the Players Championship and most recently the RBC Canadian Open. Four players are tied for the lead after the first round of the Scottish Open including Matt Kuchar on eight under with McIlroy four shots further back after his first round 67.
McIlroy is priced at 6.50 to win the Scottish Open this year with Kuchar 6.00. McIlroy is at 9.00 to win the Open next weekend with Brooks Koepka 10.00.