Darren Clarke enjoys dream start to home Open at Royal Portrush

Tiger Woods took to the course early on Wednesday morning alongside putting coach Matt Killen

A local and former champion Darren Clarke will hit the first tee shot of the 148th Open at 6.35am local time (0535 GMT) with the star attraction of Tiger Woods (1410 GMT) and home favourite Rory McIlroy (0909 GMT) to come later in the day for record crowds.

But while that round of 61 at the 2005 North of Ireland Championship was clearly a sign of the great things to come for the four-times major victor, the arrival of the Open at the course has a significance for McIlroy beyond personal nostalgia.

He won a secondary tournament in the Dominican Republic early this year to move up in the rankings, then made a curling 30-footer on the final hole at the Canadian Open to secure his spot.

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The betting favorite and best hope for a Northern Irishman winning the British Open in its first playing here since 1951, essentially took himself out of contention nearly as soon as his tournament started.

The spectre of terrorism over the years played its part in keeping The Open away from Northern Ireland. He shot 62 to overturn a five-stroke deficit in the final round.

He added: "Expectations kept rising nearly every week I was playing".

"I don't think I have the talent to do what he did, to play the way he did", Rahm said.


It might explain why he can lose interest at major championships if he's not in contention.

The 36-year-old, who lives in London, hasn't competed since he placed 57th at the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in CT, which concluded June 23.

"The golf club has been a big part of my upbringing". I actually met Darren Clarke that day for the first time, which was really cool.

Why limit yourself to playing golf during the daytime when you can play under the stars as well?

It has been a long wait for Portrush to host its second Open, and much has changed in that time, including the creation of two new holes - the seventh and eighth.

Jon Rahm is hoping an accommodation switch can lead to a reversal of fortunes in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

"I remember asking my Mum and Dad, is this actually what happened?"

He took a drop up by the green before two putting for an eight to finish the first hole four over par. McIlroy had a look at a birdie putt on the second to get a shot back but sent it left before sinking for par.

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