The 2019 Open Championship due to be held at Royal Portrush Links in Northern Ireland is now only a couple of weeks away and there is a major buzz starting to grow here at Hole19 HQ.
To help build up to what promises to be a historic event on the north Antrim coast, we've decided to take a look at home favourite Rory McIlroy's chances of capturing a fifth major title at the final time of asking in 2019.
He will undoubtedly be one of our 'Players to Watch' (keep an eye out for our top 10 over the next week or two) but here are a few reasons we think the world number three could get back to major-winning ways this month.
Here's what we've come up with...
He Shot a Course Record 61 at Royal Portrush
Back in 2005, Rory McIlroy was teeing it up at Royal Portrush at the North of Ireland Amateur Open when he set a new course record 61.
Shooting a bogey-free round, and with a card consisting of nine birdies and one eagle, the then 16-year-old schoolboy set the golfing world abuzz.
Eye-Poppingly Strong 2019 Consistency
There are very few (if any) golfers on either Tour this year who have demonstrated anywhere near the consistency levels of McIlroy. Only twice in 13 tournaments this year has the Northern Irishman failed to finish within the top ten, while he has converted two of these strong showings into victories.
Winning the 'unofficial fifth major' - THE PLAYERS Championship - back in mid-March was followed last month by capturing the RBC Canadian Open title.
McIlroy's form is strong heading to Royal Portrush.
2016 DDF Irish Open Win
While there are no major similarities between the course at the K-Club in Kildare, Ireland and that which faces the golfers this month on the north coast of Antrim at Royal Portrush, the fact that McIlroy has a professional tournament win under his belt at his national Open could prove invaluable.
Back in 2016, when also performing hosting duties at the DDF Irish Open, McIlroy managed to capture the title when the full glare of a golf-loving public was firmly upon him. Even with Tiger Woods in the field this month, he can expect similarly heightened expectations and bursting galleries over the four days play.
History suggests he has the mental toughness to ignore the cacophony of noise which will undoubtedly follow him, and stick to the plan.
He's Overdue a Major Win
McIlroy's last win at any major championship was the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla in August of the same year.
Finishing one shot ahead of five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, few of us would have expected that almost five years would pass without McIlroy adding to his haul of four.
Check out his memories of that day in Valhalla's fading light...
He's Sounding Super Focused
McIlroy seems to be making the right noises in the lead up to this month's trip to Royal Portrush. His pre-tournament quotes have included:
"There's nothing that I'd like more than to lift that Claret Jug in front of all my friends and family"
as well as,
"Obviously, I won in '14, missed '15 [ankle injury], then I was top five in '16, top five in '17, and then second last year. So I haven't finished outside of the top five in an Open in a while, and I had a decent chance to win at Carnoustie last year."
McIlroy is due to play the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open the week before the Open Championship and the links-style challenge of The Renaissance Club could provide the perfect test to sharpen his game before teeing it up on 18th July on the north Antrim coast.
And if he can hold on to these positive vibes then major number five might be just around the corner.
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