Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy looks at his putt on the 5th green during a practice round ahead of the start of the British Open golf championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. The British Open starts Thursday. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Golf’s Best Prepare for The Open’s New Ireland Setting

The Claret Jug returns to Ireland. For the first time since 1951, The Open Championship will be played in Ireland, specifically the Royal Portrush Golf Club.

The Return

The citizens of Northern Ireland aren’t the only ones ecstatic for The Open’s return. The players are as well. They’re excited to play at a course outside England for the first time in over 60 years.

Phil Mickelson describes the uniqueness of the course at Portrush.

The wind is going to play a major factor this weekend. The course’s two most challenging holes are along the Atlantic Ocean. In preparation for this weekend, the course at the Royal Portrush Golf Club has experienced various redesigns back in 2015. Crews spent 18 months modernizing the links.

Rory’s Homecoming

This weekend at Portrush is a homecoming for Rory McIlroy. McIlroy is from Northern Ireland and has many fond memories at Royal Portrush. For his 10th birthday, McIlroy played the course for the first time with his father, Gerry. At age 16, McIlroy set the Dunluce club record with a score of 11-under par, which was set at 61. Now, McIlroy, 30, returns to the course where so many memories were made. He hopes he can add a fifth major title to the list of memories at Portrush.

He talks about how meaningful this weekend is to him and to his home country.

Prominent Pairings

The first day of The Open Championship starts Thursday. Defending champion Francesco Molinari is paired up Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott. The three will tee off at 9:58 a.m. Eastern. Hometown hero Rory McIlroy tees off at 10:09 a.m. along with U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland and Paul Casey.

Brooks Koepka, who has finished second in three majors this year, will tee off at 1:04 p.m. Eastern. He explains his success at majors this year.

Last but certainly not least, Masters champion Tiger Woods tees off at 3:10 p.m. Eastern. The cold might play a factor for the older Woods. The cold breeze off the Atlantic can do damage to Woods’ sore back, which he’s been fighting throughout the season.

Woods says playing majors helps ease the pain.

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