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How Rory McIlroy plans to deal with attention of home support at Open Championship


No problem: Rory McIlroy is sure he will stay focused during his Open bid at Portrush
No problem: Rory McIlroy is sure he will stay focused during his Open bid at Portrush

By Robert Jones

Rory McIlroy insists he's ready to handle the spotlight and all the attention he'll receive from an adoring home support when he tees off at The Open Championship at Royal Portrush next month.

With the venerable Championship returning to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951 from July 18-21, the country's favourite golfing son will no doubt be the centre of attention, but for McIlroy the week is going to be about trying to put all that aside.

The 30-year-old is experienced enough by now to know that in order to be competitive in a Major, your mind needs to be fully focused on the task at hand, and that's exactly what he hopes to be.

"Luckily this is not my first rodeo. It's going to be my 11th Open Championship," McIlroy said.

"It doesn't matter whether it's at Portrush or St Andrews or Carnoustie or Birkdale or wherever, it's the Open Championship.

"You have to treat it like that and it's almost like you can't let your mind wander, can't let yourself think. You have to really focus on the job in front of you."

Clearly anticipating a bit of a media frenzy, McIlroy hopes to sidestep most of it and keep his eye on the prize.

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Coming back to his home in Northern Ireland, it's natural that all the focus will be on himself, as well as other local favourites such as Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.

With that in mind, the World No.3 has admitted that he will have to factor that into his preparation for the tournament, however he's still unwilling to pre-emptively use it as an excuse.

"I'm going to have so many people I knew who are going to want to stop me and chat," he added.

"(I need to make) sure I have enough time to do the things I need to do.

"I've got plenty of experience at it so I don't think that it's necessarily going to be a distraction. I've played well in Opens for a long time now."

While McIlroy has now gone five years since his last Major victory, he can at least head to Portrush with a great deal of confidence having already won twice on the PGA Tour this year, including as recently as a few weeks ago at the RBC Canadian Open.

On that occasion the 30-year-old put in one of those performances that harked back to when he was at the height of his game and would tear fields apart with his superior talent.

But while this season has been a successful one up to now - as well as winning the Players Championship and in Canada, McIlroy has already recorded 11 top-10 finishes in just 13 starts this year - it's been his Major form that has been the thing that has left him concerned.

He would have been hoping for better than tied-ninth at last week's US Open, even though it certainly represented an improvement on his three missed cuts in the last three years.

And while a tied-21st at the Masters back in April was a good showing considering his average opening two rounds - and marks one of just two finishes outside the top-10 this season - it too was considered another opportunity missed.

But McIlroy is instead focusing on the positives from that performance at Pebble Beach, which he is hoping will translate into further improvement when he steps onto the first tee at the Dunluce links next month.

"I think I'm probably most improved considering my recent results at the US Open," he said.

"I thought I played well for the most part. It was a step in the right direction.

"I didn't think 13-under was going to win the tournament. I said at the start of the week I would have taken eight under par, but (winner Gary Woodland and runner-up Brooks Koepka) separated themselves a bit from the field."

Meanwhile, host Paul McGinley has confirmed that Amateur Open champion James Sugrue will take part in the Irish Open Pro-Am at Lahinch.

After the Mallow golfer won the Amateur at Portmarnock at the weekend, earning himself a place at Royal Portrush, there were calls for him to be given an invite into the Irish Open as well.

McGinley confirmed that Sugrue will indeed contest the Pro-Am on the Wednesday, but he will not contest the tournament itself and will instead compete at the European Amateur Championships.

Belfast Telegraph


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