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Eyes on the prize... a defence of the Open title at Portrush

Carnoustie win offers Rory dream chance

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy is using the potential of an Open Championship title defence at Royal Portrush next year to spur him on to success at the third Major of the year at Carnoustie this weekend.

McIlroy - who tees off at 12.53pm today alongside Marc Leishman and Thorbjorn Olesen - won The Open in 2014, and has recorded top-five finishes at the event in the last two years, but has recently struggled for form.

But the four-time Major winner is ready to go in Scotland, and he would love nothing more than to be the defending champion at the first Open held in Northern Ireland since 1951.

"If I were to head to Portrush with a Claret Jug in my possession, I'd obviously be very happy and be very proud to be the defending champion at a golf course that I know very well and playing in front of home fans," McIlroy said.

"Geez, if it all worked out like that this week, I'd be one very happy man heading out of here."

McIlroy won his first Major title at the 2011 US Open, his second at the 2012 USPGA and then won both The Open and USPGA in 2014.

"I've always said that my performances in the Majors at that point wasn't the norm," added McIlroy.

"That was above my normal level, then you go back down and then you build yourself back up again.

"As long as there's points where you can maybe get yourself to that level, then that's great. If you put yourself in position enough times, you'll hopefully find a way to get it done. I found a way to get it done four times, and hopefully I find a way to get it done a few more times before I'm finished."

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