Golf Expert & Columnist
The Open: Rory McIlroy has golden opportunity, says Rich Beem
Last Updated: 16/07/19 6:07am
Rich Beem discusses what makes Royal Portrush so special and looks at the challenges facing Rory McIlroy at The Open.
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The Open Championship is always great, but I think the players are going to enjoy themselves this week unlike any other. St Andrews always comes to mind as a wonderful Open venue, but Portrush, for me, just has something special.
I look at this golf course and think of it as the ultimate test, as it makes you focus on every single part of your game just a little bit better than the other venues on the Open roster.
I first came to Portrush in 2012 and just couldn't get enough of the place, even with all the wind and rain that week, as the golf course and the fans were just unbelievable.
They've changed the 17th and 18th holes since then, which might have been considered a little boring as there wasn't too much about them. The two holes they've put in look like they've been there forever and just make this place look even better.
Darren Clarke is going to hit the opening tee shot and there's no better player in this part of the world to kick off the festivities! He's going to embrace that honour and the fact he's a past Open champion makes it that little bit more significant.
The tough part for the other local players this week, particularly Rory McIlroy, is the fact they'll be being pulled in so many different directions. They know that they understand this golf course better than almost the entire field, but they have to put that in the back of their brains.
You can rely a little bit on your past knowledge of knowing how to play the golf course, but you also have to appreciate that the conditions are going to be so different compared to how they've played Royal Portrush it in the past.
McIlroy has admitted in many interviews ahead of this week that he never thought he would see the Open Championship played in his back yard, so he'll be getting goosebumps at the thought of having the event back here.
He knows he has a golden opportunity on home soil, but at the same time can't get too wrapped up in what it would mean for him and his career if he could go on and win. It will be interesting to see how McIlroy and the other 'local' players will handle this week.
Watch The 148th Open throughout the week live on Sky Sports' dedicated channel. Live coverage begins live on Thursday from 6.30am on Sky Sports The Open.