McIlroy knows this is not just another British Open

Tiger Woods

One of the funky features of the range is the LED screens that surround the bays that track the progress of a player's golf ball.

"I'm here to enjoy myself".

McIlroy would probably lose a Mastermind specialist subject competition on Portrush to natives like Graeme McDowell and Brooks Koepka's caddie Ricky Elliott, or to adopted son and devotee Darren Clarke.

Fox has never played at the course before, but he loves it.

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.

An A-list resort in handsome Andalucia, along with views of the magnificent mountain range, beach club, showstopping 50m long infinity pool (one of three), stunning 2,200sqm spa with an indoor heated salt water swimming pool and a Michelin star restaurant, the 18-hole championship golf course is one of the finest in the country.

The 22-year-old Scot, who only turned professional late in 2018, raced to four under in an eventful seven holes which included an eagle, three birdies and a bogey. I got compliments in the Royal Box.

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"If you can look at the bigger picture and you can see that, it sort of takes a little bit of the pressure off".

Aside from the hordes of kids following Rory McIlroy like a golfing pied piper, there's one particular group of people who'll be keeping a keen eye on NI's finest sporting export. They're excited to play at a course outside England for the first time in over 60 years. "Or maybe it counts more..."

That gives us precious little to go on when it comes to course analysis but the fickle features of links golf will be present: wild weather, cruel bounces, cavernous bunkers, gnarly knee-high rough and the luck of the draw.

For his part, Conor feels that just because he's not won a major since 2014, the World No 3 is very harshly judged. And then it got even better for Clarke, the 50-year-old from Northern Ireland who now calls Portrush home. It's about a British soldier that gets stationed at the Palace Barracks in Holywood, which is literally 500 yards from where I grew up and it basically follows him on the night of the Troubles and all that.

"No one cares who they are, where they're from, what background they're from, you can have a great life and it doesn't matter what side of the street you come from", he adds. "We're so far past all that, and that's a wonderful thing".

"I think it speaks volumes of where the country and where the people that live here are now".

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