Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - McIlroy hopeful as Open heads to Northern Ireland

McIlroy hopeful as Open heads to Northern Ireland

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy reacts to making an eagle putt on the 14th green during his final round 70 on day four of the 147th Open golf Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland on July 22 last year. ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP

McIlroy hopeful as Open heads to Northern Ireland

The British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years this week at Royal Portrush, giving Rory McIlroy the opportunity on home soil to end his five-year major drought.

The four-time major champion has not lifted one of golf’s big four trophies since winning the 2014 US PGA Championship, but is the bookmakers’ favourite to get his hands on the Claret Jug after finishing tied for second a year ago at Carnoustie, two strokes behind Francesco Molinari.

McIlroy has continued his consistent form this season, claiming two titles including the prestigious Players’ Championship while recording 11 top-10 finishes.

He admitted that it would be a dream come true to triumph in the 148th Open Championship at a club where as a 16-year-old he fired a course record 61.

“If I’m being honest, it would obviously mean the world to me,” said the Northern Irishman, who won the 2014 Open at Hoylake.

“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.”

World No3 McIlroy, who won the 2016 Irish Open at the K Club just outside Dublin, was keen to play down the pressure of playing in front of his home fans.

“I think it’s going to feel normal. It’s going to feel like just another Open Championship,” said the 30-year-old after a solid showing at last week’s Scottish Open.

“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.”

Englishman Max Faulkner won the last Open to be played at Portrush, in 1951, taking home a top prize of just £300 ($375). The champion this year will receive $1,935,000 (£1.5 million).

‘I just hope I hit the fairway’

Among the favourites is red-hot world No1 Brooks Koepka and a resurgent Tiger Woods.

But the fans will roar loudest for McIlroy and his compatriots, including 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke, who will have the honour of hitting the first tee shot of the tournament early on Thursday at his home course – he lives in the town of Portrush.

“It’s going to be amazing,” said Clarke.

“Thursday morning is going to be exciting. And I just hope I manage to get one going straight down the fairway.”

Koepka’s recent major record remarkable – he has won four in his last nine appearances and finished first twice and second twice in the last four he has played.

He missed Carnoustie a year ago through injury but his British Open record has been good, with two top-10s from five appearances and a best of tied sixth in 2017.

Woods will play professionally in Northern Ireland for the first time as he seeks a 16th major to close on Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18.

The 43-year-old American capped one of sport’s greatest comebacks by winning the Masters in April, despite previously slipping out of the top 1,000 in the world rankings after years of struggling with back injuries and poor form.

Woods’ reimposed threat at the top of the game was confirmed 12 months ago at Carnoustie when he seized the lead on the back nine in the final round, only to finish in a tie for sixth, three shots behind winner Molinari.

The Italian says he has kept good care of the Claret Jug since his triumph 12 months ago.

“We’ve had a couple of drinks out of it. Nothing out of the ordinary,” he said. “I’ve got small kids at home so I had to keep it out of reach most of the time to avoid disaster.”

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Mother, daughter killed in hotel fire

    The bodies of a mother and daughter were found locked in an embrace after they were killed in a hotel fire in Phnom Penh at around 3:30am on Wednesday at the Phkar Chhouk Tep 2 Hotel and Restaurant in Phsar Doeum Kor commune, in the capital’

  • EBA withdrawal a destruction of EU achievements, PM says

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the EU’s possible suspension of its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement amounted to a destruction of its achievements in the Kingdom and the demise of the opposition group. Hun Sen made the remarks while addressing more than 6,700 students during

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • Kingdom calls on Japan to increase number of direct flights to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh

    Cambodia is requesting Japan to increase the number of direct flights from Japanese cities and provinces to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, so as to contribute to increasing cooperation and tourist numbers between the two countries. During the opening ceremony of 3rd Japan Travel Fair

  • Sri Lanka’s LOLC Holdings plans to sell Cambodian unit

    LOLC Holdings Plc, Sri Lanka’s second-largest publicly traded company by revenue, plans to sell its 70 per cent stake in Prasac Microfinance Institution Ltd, which also counts Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia Ltd. as a shareholder, LOLC deputy chairman Ishara Nanayakkara said. Nanayakkara