When did you first play golf in St Andrews and on the Old Course?

“I first played the Old Course in 2005. I was 16, and playing in the St. Andrews Links Trophy. I certainly didn’t think then that it was the best course I’d ever played. I just stood up on every tee and wondered what all the fascination was about. But the more you play it and the more you learn about the golf course - the little nuances and subtleties – you definitely come to appreciate it all the more. Now, it's right up there with my favourite courses in the world.”

The 2005 St Andrews Links Trophy featured many of the ‘golden generation’ of British and Irish amateur golfers, which Rory was a part of, and the tournament was won by Lloyd Saltman. Saltman was tipped for success as a professional, as were others, but it is McIlroy who has stood head and shoulders above his peers.

You tend to play well on the Old, how can you explain this and how does the course suit you? What are the keys to playing well around there?

“Yes, I do tend to play well on the Old Course. I think the best way I can explain that is to say that many of the holes suit my game. It’s one of the courses where I find it quite easy to see shots. That makes standing over the ball so much more comfortable, and I’m then confident that the result will be what I want.  And, for me, the only way to play the Old Course is to do so patiently.”
It’s easy to become a little over-confident because you’ve got an early score going, but that can be dangerous. I’d say to take your chances when they present themselves but be aware that the closing holes, if treated too casually, can completely ruin any scorecard.”

In 2011 McIlroy finished runner-up to fellow Northern Irishman Michael Hoey, despite getting off to a stunning start in the final round. The winner of 22 tournaments worldwide was in a vein of form which perhaps only he can be, making a birdie at the 2nd before pitching his second to the 3rd in for an eagle. Four more birdies ensued and he was 7-under-par through the first 12 holes, and chasing his fellow countryman home for the title. However he would miss further opportunities on the homeward stretch and came up two shots shy of Hoey.

Injury denied him the chance to claim a second Claret Jug when The Open returned to St Andrews in 2015, and a win in St Andrews will undoubtedly be a goal for the Holywood man.

The Dunhill Links has a genuinely unique atmosphere, with the tourists making their last trips to St Andrews before the winter, and the students arriving for the start of the new year. You will certainly see some of the biggest names in golf mingling with the locals during the week. Rory is a fan of the town and has been known to enjoy its charms.

Away from the course, what else is it that attracts you to St Andrews and where are your favourite places to hangout?

“St Andrews has a very special atmosphere. It might the history, architecture, student population or maybe just a mix of it all that works so well. And when I get the chance to hang out, there are just so many great cafes, bars and restaurants. I can’t name them all – just come and experience the town for yourself…”

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