McIlroy knows this is not just another British Open

While his fifth Masters win in April was exhilarating the journey was also draining for Woods

Despite just two top 10s in 13 Open appearances and the imminent arrival of his 40th birthday, the Dunluce is his 15th club.

The political and social situation during the period known as the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland made it just too hard and too unsafe.

"When the ball really started to get rolling was when Padraig [Harrington] won his three majors and then I won and Rory and Darren picked up a major each, as well".

"Time went by and for all sorts of obvious reasons, it was hard to bring big events to Northern Ireland".

He is a four-time major champion and No. 3 in the world, and Royal Portrush is where he came of age in golf.

"We are making history with a record attendance for a championship staged outside of St Andrews and the levels of excitement among fans this week have been phenomenal".

Both of those wins came in relatively mild, wind-free conditions, but it is likely to be different at Royal Portrush this week.

The fourth major of the 2019 golf season gets started very early on Thursday morning, with The Open Championship teeing off. "I wasn't too far off being right there in the US Open (at Shinnecock Hills) previous year".

Perhaps that's the reason why he has won the Irish Open twice in the past three years, roared on by huge galleries wherever he goes. What he's done in the last four Major championships has been just unbelievable.

"It's awesome to think 40 years on it's such a great place, no one cares who they are, where they're from, what background they're from, but you can have a great life and it doesn't matter what side of the street you come from", he said. It built on the considerable and complicated groundwork of multiple agencies across the province - not least by the club and long-time secretary-manager Wilma Erskine and her team. "It speaks volumes for where the country and where the people that live here are now". And that's a wonderful thing.

Royal Portrush has two new holes - Nos. There's no difference. It's the same golf course.

Golf tourism in general brings in 125,000 visitors to Northern Ireland and has a total economic impact of about $53 million, according to Tourism Northern Ireland. "One of my mantras this week is look around and smell the roses".

The R&A awarded Clarke the honor of starting off the British Open.

John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism NI, said bringing the Open to Northern Ireland 20 years ago would have been unthinkable.

When it comes to the average age of the British Open victor, seven of the last 10 champions were 35 or older. Other short odds to win are Brooks Koepka (10/1), Jon Rahm (14/1) and Dustin Johnson (16/1).

"I don't think when he grew up that he ever thought there would be an Open Championship here", said Koepka, who visited Elliott's parents and took in the sights of Portrush and its infamous Harbour Bar after arriving last week. "It would be cool to see him win".

And maybe it's what will turn this most fiery of golfers into a major champion this week at Royal Portrush.

Although this is the first time we have put something like this together, it came together pretty well.

While the famous trophy remains, this year's victor will receive a cheque for £1.56m and the R&A predicts the tournament will deliver an £80m boost to the local economy.

McIlroy also played down the significance of his course record-setting achievement at the links as a teenager, especially with the modifications - the creation of two new holes and extra yards added - which have taken place since.

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