Last week, Rory McIlroy went to his home in Northern Ireland expecting to see a different Royal Portrush, site of this week’s Open Championship. He was going to check it out before playing in the Scottish Open.
He even delayed dinner with his mom because he thought he would be stuck on the course, trying to figure out any new wrinkles on the layout. Turns out the extra time wasn’t needed for the tract he grew up playing.
“I expected it to feel different than it did,” McIlroy said. “It still just feels like Portrush to me. “Yes, the stands are up and it looks fantastic, but it’s still the same golf course. I haven’t played it much over the last few years. So I was sort of a little: ‘Do I really need to re-familiarize myself with this place; how much time do I need to spend?’ When I got on the first tee, everything sort of started coming back to me: On the second tee, I aim it at the brown house, everything started to come back. It felt like just the same old golf course that I grew up playing and it was nice.”
Playing Portrush an Advantage?
McIlroy is hoping that having the benefit of playing his home course can spur him to his second Open Championship, and fifth major. McIlroy won the 2014 Open Championship. He also won the PGA Championship the same year, his last victorious major.
Oddsmakers have made him the prohibitive favorite. At the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, he is at 8/1. Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson are next at 10/1. The odds are tighter at the Golden Nugget, where McIlroy is at 15/2, and Koepka is 8/1.
The overseas markets are solidly in favor of McIlroy. Most sites, including Ladbrokes and SkyBet have McIlroy at 8/1 and Koepka at 10/1. One place, Sport Nation, has McIlroy at 7/1.
Even without the tournament at a familiar place, McIlroy would probably be a top betting choice. The 30-year-old has finished in the first, tied for fifth, tied for fourth, and tied for second in his last four appearances.
McIlroy Confident, Despite Distractions
While playing at Portrush might have its advantages for McIlroy, it also comes with some negatives. The crowds are going to be decidedly in his favor, and that could be a distraction.
McIlroy was asked again on Sunday, after finishing tied for 34th in the Scottish Open, about this week. It must seem like the 100th time he has had to answer the question about playing less than an hour from where he grew up.
“Honestly, I think it’s going to feel normal. It’s going to feel like just another Open Championship,” McIlroy said. “I’ve played in a few of them now. I know what to expect. Might be a little louder. Atmosphere might be a bit different but the objective is the same, to go there and play good golf and hopefully give myself a chance to win the Claret Jug.”
Of course McIlroy can’t help but let his mind wander a bit, and think about winning his second Open Championship.
“It would be right up there,” McIlroy said. “You know, at this point in my career, I don’t want to sit back and look at things too much. I mean, I’m on a journey and this journey, it started 11 or 12 years ago and hopefully I still have another 15 or 20 years left in it. It’s part of the journey. It’s part of doing what I do. But you know, if I’m being honest, it would obviously mean the world to me. But just like winning Hoylake meant the world to me, as well. Just getting my hands on that Claret Jug again would be a huge accomplishment.”