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Royal Portrush Golf Club professional will be watching The Open leaderboard with significant interest

Royal Portrush Golf Club's head professional Gary McNeill. Picture by Hugh Russell

ONE man who will be watching The Open leaderboard next month with significant interest is Royal Portrush Golf Club professional Gary McNeill.

His role means he may have to take to the fairways during the competition.

"Potentially I may have to fill in after the cut falls, when there's 156 players start the tournament and it falls at 70 plus ties," he said.

"Traditionally during the Open, they play in threes on Thursday and Friday and after the cut they play in twos.

"If there's an odd number, when one player is left on his own, that's where I come in and play with them on the Saturday and Sunday.

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"It will be pretty nerve-wrecking, but something I would relish if the opportunity arises."

The Open takes place at Royal Portrush next month. Picture by Hugh Russell

Describing the course as a "very stern test" for any golfer, he believes many competitors will be visiting Royal Portrush ahead of the start of the tournament.

"All the players prepare differently, some will potentially turn up as soon as the course closes at the beginning of July," he said,

"Where as others like to treat the majors just like another event, stick to their normal routines, arrive on the Monday or Tuesday and practice and play on Thursday.

The Open takes place at Royal Portrush next month. Picture by Hugh Russell

"Certainly as we get closer to the tournament, particularly around the time of the Irish Open, Scottish Open, I'd imagine a number of players will take the opportunity to drop in.

"Come the championship, I think they will be very excited to play here.

"They'll enjoy this course, but they'll have to learn quick, because it is different, it's a seaside links golf course - firm, fast and bouncy."

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