Rory McIlroy: 'I'm trying to treat this like any other Open'

Rory McIlroy is leading the home challenge at the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush this week
From Paul Kelly at Royal Portrush

RORY McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are taking vastly different approaches to dealing with fan fervour this week at The Open.

McDowell has accepted his role as the local hero with great grace and is hoping to use the goodwill and support to spur him on to success.

“The welcome I've received from the people this week has been epic. It's been amazing. Just the pride level and the way people have responded and well-wishers and the support that I'm going to have,” said McDowell.

“I think the visual I have as a Ryder Cup, I'm trying to picture the crowd as a Ryder Cup crowd, that they're all there to support me in a positive way. I need to use them positively and not see it as a negative thing; see it as a positive thing.”

McIlroy, meanwhile, is trying desperately hard not to get carried away by the huge interest and excitement that has been generated by the return of The Open after all these years.

“I don't think this is anything like a Ryder Cup. You're playing for yourself. It's not the same. I wouldn't want to turn this into a Ryder Cup mindset because I think that's hard to sustain for four days,” he said.

“Again, I'm just treating this like any other Open Championship. I've played well here for the last few years. I've played well on this golf course.

“So I've just got to go out and hit the shots and stay in the present. If I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, hopefully by Sunday night that will be good enough.”

McIlroy has been trying, reasonably successfully, to come in under the radar this week. He knows how big an event this is, he knows how much it means to people but he doesn't want to blow it up out of all proportion.

“I've sort of tried to keep it low key. I went for dinner last night and people are just coming up and saying good luck and have a great week,” he added.

“It's very nice. If I'm honest, it hasn't felt any different to any other Open Championship. I feel like I get great support no matter where I go.

“I'm sure it will feel different tomorrow on that first tee with the buzz and everything but up to this point, it really hasn't been much different, which has been a nice thing. It's comforting in that way that it hasn't felt any different.”

In the past, Rory has struggled to cope with the weight of expectation playing in front of Irish fans at the Irish Open. It would seem logical therefore that a home Open would only heighten those interest levels but he doesn't see it like that.

“You've got the best players in the world here, and I don't feel like I'm the centre of attention,” he added.

“I'm from Northern Ireland and I'm playing at home, but I don't see myself as that centre of attention, I guess. I'm here to enjoy myself. Hopefully it doesn't take another 68 years for the tournament to come back here.

“I mightn't get an opportunity to play an Open Championship here again. You never know what happens. I'm really just treating it as a wonderful experience and one that I really want to enjoy.

"I'm going to love being out there and having the crowds and having the support. If that can't help you, then nothing can.”

He continued; “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. I'm not saying 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. And I want to keep reminding myself of that, that this is bigger than me; right? This is bigger than me.

“And I think if you can look at the bigger picture and you can see that, 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.”

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