Open being at Portrush is bigger than me – McIlroy hopes for lasting legacy

Rory McIlroy says he is reminding himself this week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush is “bigger than me” and the significance of the tournament returning to Northern Ireland is not lost on him.

The four-time major winner will have the backing of a fervent home support when The Open is played at Portrush for the first time in 68 years this weekend.

Earlier this week, 2011 victor Darren Clarke spoke of how such an event returning to Portrush represents a marquee moment following the Northern Ireland conflict, a period in the country’s history also known as ‘The Troubles’.

It was a theme McIlroy continued when addressing the media on Wednesday and the 30-year-old hopes the tournament can leave a lasting legacy.

“I’ve always felt I’ve played my best golf when I’ve been totally relaxed and loose and maybe that environment is what I need,” the 2014 Open champion said.

“I’m not saying that that’s the way I’m going to approach it. I’m still going to try to go out and shoot good scores and concentrate and do all the right things.

“But at the same time, I can’t just put the blinkers on and pretend that’s not all going on. One of my sort of mantras this week is, ‘Look around and smell the roses’. 

“This is a wonderful thing for this country and golf in general and to be quite a big part of it is an honour and a privilege. I want to keep reminding myself of that, that this is bigger than me.

“I think if you can look at the bigger picture and you can see that then it sort of takes a little bit of the pressure off. 

“I still want to play well and concentrate and do all the right things, but at the same time just having that perspective might just make me relax a little bit more.”

McIlroy added The Open being played in Northern Ireland is a sign the country has moved on from the past.

“It’s a different time. It’s a very prosperous place. I’m very fortunate that I grew up just outside Belfast and I never saw anything, I was oblivious to it,” he added.

“I remember I watched a movie a couple of years ago, it was just basically called ’71’. 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. And I remember asking my mum and dad, is this actually what happened?

“It’s amazing to think 40 years on it’s such a great place, no one cares who they are, where they’re from, what background they’re from, but you can have a great life and it doesn’t matter what side of the street you come from. 

“I think that’s what I was talking about with the legacy of this tournament, to be able to have this tournament here again, I think it speaks volumes of where the country and where the people that live here are now. We’re so far past that and that’s a wonderful thing.

“No matter what happens this week, if I win or whoever else wins, having The Open back in this country is a massive thing for golf and I think as well it will be a massive thing for the country.”