American Bubba Watson (left) and fellow countryman JB Holmes putt in fifth place, one of Royal Portrush & # 39; s most scenic holesThe 148th Open Championship, Royal PortrushDates: 18-21 JulyCoverage: live text updates and in-play clips on the BBC Sport website, with live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and daily highlights on BBC Two.Full details
Northern Ireland's rugged and spectacular north-east coast will come alive with excitement and expectation on Thursday when the Open Championship returns to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951.
The County Antrim club will organize the 148th staging of the oldest major of the game, 68 years after it had the only other Open that became outside of England and Scotland played.
About 215,000 fans are expected at the Dunluce course during the week, with tickets sold out for both tournament and practice days.
When the serious action begins, the Darren Clarke in Northern Ireland will take the opening test at 6:00:35 BST on Thursday.
Despite the early start, the stands around the first tee will certainly be full to watch the 2011 open champion and the local favorite tee.
Clarke was brought further inland at Dungannon but has a house next to the job and said it was an "honor" to be asked by the R & A to start the procedure.
It was a long wait for Portrush to host its second Open, and much has changed in that time, including the creation of two new holes – the seventh and eighth.
Flamboyant Englishman Max Faulkner received £ 300 and the Claret Jug the last time he was held in Portrush, which is just a few miles along the coast of the Giant's Causeway.
While the famous trophy remains, this year's winner receives a check of £ 1.56 million and the R & A predicts that the tournament will give a £ 80 million boost to the local economy.
McIlroy leads the hope of home
Winning the Open in Portrush would mean more, says McIlroy
Rory McIlroy has already won four majors, so he has experienced the emotion of winning the biggest prizes in the game – but he admits that he will store the Claret Jug at home on Sunday, might see him "bursting crying" .
Northern Irish has pedigree in Portrush and sets the record of 61 as a 16-year-old during the Northern Irish championship.
Fourteen years later and third in the world rankings, McIlroy will hope for the huge home support he will have if he looks forward to waiting five years for a fifth main title.
"I want to enjoy it and give these people something to cheer up," said the 2014 champion, who remembers meeting Clarke when he visited the 10-year-old club.
The third Northern Irish head champion in the field is Graeme McDowell, who was born and raised in the city, but who says his family could not afford memberships at Royal Portrush when he grew up, so locks instead she joined th The Rathmore club that plays on the second course of Royal Portrush, the Valley.
He told the European Tour that he remembered playing the course as a teenager with brother Gary, who is now part of the Royalkeeping Greenkeeping staff.
But the more recognizable McDowell almost did not come home to his Open house, and admits that he would have found it difficult to be in another city in the city if he had not qualified.
2010 US Open champion finally booked his place in June after a tie for eighth place at the Canadian Open.
World number four Justin Rose is the highest placed Englishman in the field as he tries to add to his single big win – the 2013 US Open – while Tommy Fleetwood, who was left on the sea because he grew up with it playing the big links of Southport, says he expects Portrush to feel like a & # 39; home & # 39; location.
Andrew & # 39; Beef Johnston made it into the field with one of the fe & # 39; s of the week el-good stories, finishing fourth at the Scottish Open on Sunday to qualify after a difficult few years in which he moved to 337th place in the rankings had fallen.
Koepka & # 39; s inside knowledge
Brooks Koepka (right) practiced with fellow American Dustin Johnson on Tuesday
Brooks Koepka is not only the number one and quadruple big champion, but he also has the advantage of some prior knowledge.
The caddy of the 29-year-old is Portrush local Ricky Elliott, who according to Koepka is a & # 39; legend & # 39; would be in town if he helps the Americans to get a first Open title.
"I don't think when he grew up that he once thought there would be an Open Championship here," Koepka said. "It would be cool to see him win."
Koepka & # 39; s fellow American American Dustin Johnson is second in the rankings and has three top 10 Open finishes to his name but he missed the cut and Portrush & # 39; s The Dunluce course is unlikely to withstand force majeure.
The last of the five majors of Phil Mickelson came to The Open in 2013, but he missed six cuts this year during his ten previous tournaments and has taken drastic measures in an attempt to find a form.
The 49-year-old said on social media that he fired 15 pounds after a six-day fast that saw him drink water and a "special coffee blend" before arriving in Northern Ireland
Fans will of course be eager to catch a glimpse of Tiger Woods, the 15-time grand champion and triple Open winner who will play competitively in Northern Ireland for the first time.
his remarkable comeback of injury and personal battle by winning the Masters in Apri His first major victory since 2008.
The 43-year-old, however, was unable to recreate that form in the next two majors, missing the cut in the US PGA championship and finishing 21st at the US Open
The setup of Portrush impressed world number five, but has only played three tournaments since that Masters victory to maintain his body, and the cool and probably wet weather can't help his stiff back.
Defending champion Francesco Molinari, the first Italian to win a lead actor when he lifted the Claret Jug at Carnoustie last July, will try to recreate the 2018 shape, making him a hero in the Ryder Cup.
Molinari discussed his mental resilience in the build-up, after missing a second main title at the Masters in April, despite leading seven holes to play.
If the Claret Jug is to land in new hands, American US Open-cham pawn Gary Woodland, Spanish John Rahm and Australian Adam Scott will be a trio that could easily fight.
Former Open champion Clarke plays new 7th hole in Portrush
Three major holes to look forward to
Hole 5: White Rocks 382 yards, par 4: The R & A has indicated that they would like to use a forward tee to trick the players into a crack in the green on this dog bone. There are two bunkers at 280 – 280 meters that come into play with the tee shot. The greenery is on the edge of the cliff and players can only walk two or three meters.
Hole 7: Curran Point – 590 yards, par 5: This is the first of the two new holes and is a very strong par five of a raised tee in a valley with high dunes along the right-hand side that follows the route separate from the beach. There is a large bunker on that flank that requires a 300-yard carry. The danger is a nod to the famous & # 39; Big Nelly & # 39; bunker who was on the 17th, who was lost. The second shot is uphill and the landing place narrows as you get closer to a green with many waves.
Hole 16: Calamity Corner – 236 yards, par 3: This world-famous short hole has been stretched to 236 yards. There is a deep gap on the right and & # 39; Bobby Locke & # 39; s Hollow & # 39; is the only breathing space. Located on the left front corner of the green, where the South African is played every day in the Open of 1951. This is a difficult elevated green, with the wind likely affecting putting.