Rory McIlroy admits the fear of regret fuelled his change of heart over competing at the Olympics.

The Northern Irishman is on home soil for this week's 148th Open Championship, having caused a stir with comments he made at the same major three years ago.

At Royal Troon, ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, McIlroy suggested he would not even bother to watch the golf competition, which ended up being won by Ryder Cup team-mate Justin Rose.

Despite his dismissive tone then, McIlroy - who initially cited the Zika virus as the reason for his absence from Brazil - had clearly shifted his stance when he addressed the issue at Royal Portrush on Wednesday as he now has Tokyo 2020 firmly in his sights.

"I think personally I needed to do a lot of inner thought and ask, 'Is this important to me? Why do I want to play it? Who do I want to represent?' All that sort of stuff," he said, with his decision apparently complicated by whether he would turn out for Ireland or Great Britain.

"At the start whenever I was thinking of playing the Olympics, I think I let other people's opinions of me weigh on that decision. And at the end of the day, it's my decision. I can't please everyone. 

"The only people that really care about who I play for, who I represent, don't mean anything to me. I don't care about them.

"So at the end of the day, I think with where golf is, with it being part of the Olympic movement, I think if I had to look back on my career and not played in one, I probably would have regretted it. 

"So that was part of the reason I wanted to go, for the experience, as well. It's going to be - it's a wonderful experience. I've never done anything like that before.

"And it's in Japan. I enjoy Japan. I enjoy the people. I enjoy the food. So it will be a nice week."

The 30-year-old is going in search of a second Claret Jug and fifth major, having not won one of golf's four landmark events since 2014.

Rory McIlroy does not feel like he is the centre of attention at Royal Portrush this week and insists he will treat the 148th Open Championship the same as any other.

It has been 68 years since golf's oldest major was played on Portrush's Dunluce links and there is an understandable intrigue about local favourite McIlroy around the venue.

The Northern Irishman set Portrush's course record as a fresh-faced 16-year-old in 2005 and is aiming to end a five-year major drought on home soil.

McIlroy will undoubtedly draw plenty of eyes when play begins on Thursday and has spoken in the past of struggling with the attention when playing at the Irish Open.

But he is planning to draw on the support of a partisan home crowd.

"I think it's probably easier this week because it's such a big tournament. You've got the best players in the world here and I don't feel like I'm the centre of attention," he said.

"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.

"But at the same time, I might not 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."

As well as his own local knowledge, McIlroy has another ace up his sleeve in the shape of caddie Harry Diamond, who is also a Northern Ireland native. 

McIlroy believes Diamond, a friend since childhood who was best man at his wedding, possesses a more intimate knowledge of Portrush than he does, while accepting the 61 he shot 14 years ago counts for little due to the changes made to the course in the intervening years.

"I think that's one of the things people don't realise, Harry has played more rounds of golf on this golf course than I have, and definitely more competitive rounds," McIlroy added.

"He's just as comfortable on this golf course as I am. So that is a big help this week.

"Harry's experience around here, he's probably played this place more times than I have, not that I don't let him have any say any other weeks, but I think with his experience around here, my ear will be a little sharper to what he has to say.

"This golf course has changed so much since 2005 when I shot the 61. It's a different par, different holes. There's a lot of holes that have been lengthened. There's been a par five turned into a par four.

"I think this week, [rainy] conditions like this, then you're looking at 67, 68 is a good score. [Clear] conditions like I played it last night, then you could probably potentially see someone shoot a 63, 64, 65."

Rory McIlroy is used to the intense gaze of the golfing world being locked onto his every move but that feeling will be enhanced tenfold at the 148th Open Championship.

For the first time in McIlroy's lifetime, The Open will be held in Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush – where he holds the course record.

Expectations will be high from a partisan home crowd and from McIlroy himself.

But McIlroy heads home without a major championship to his name in the past five years, the last of his four coming at the 2014 US PGA Championship.

At that time it seemed laughable McIlroy would not add to his tally. Now, though, after several near misses, the question of whether the 30-year-old can be a major winner again is up for debate, which is exactly what two Omnisport writers have done ahead of The Open.

STAND STILL AND YOU GO BACKWARDS IN THIS GAME, RORY - RUSSELL GREAVES

In 2014, McIlroy had the world at his feet. His Valhalla victory made it back-to-back major triumphs, the 25-year-old adding the US PGA title to the Claret Jug he had lifted the month before.

With four majors to his name, the sky was the limit.

But in the game of golf, if you stand still you will go backwards. And that is the fate that has befallen McIlroy.

In the past three years alone, Brooks Koepka has drawn level with McIlroy's major haul, while Jordan Spieth is within one. Even Tiger Woods, who was declared finished by some, has returned to the winner's circle at one of golf's four headline events.

McIlroy, meanwhile, has flattered to deceive, collecting top-10 finishes (10 of them, in fact) without ever showing the killer instinct to finish the job.

There have been collapses, but mostly he has just faded away or else quietly put together a decent Sunday round to add window dressing to an underwhelming outing.

His form at The Open underscores this tendency to appear on the radar without actually threatening to strike.

In 2016 he placed tied fifth after a fine closing 67, but he was 16 shots adrift of the imperious Henrik Stenson. A year later, at Royal Birkdale, another final-round 67 saw him share fourth spot, seven strokes behind. And last year, when Carnoustie hosted, he was within two of Francesco Molinari's winning score.

McIlroy has often appeared to be in close proximity to major glory, but he has in truth been a world away, gazing longingly from the vantage point of a man who once knew what such lofty achievements felt like. It is a feeling he may never experience again.

RORY IS A VICTIM OF HIS OWN SUCCESS, HE WILL BE A MAJOR WINNER AGAIN - PETER HANSON

Let's put something into context here. McIlroy had four major wins to his name before the age of 30.

Only three players could boast more by the same milestone. Two of those were Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, the greatest to have played this toughest of sports.

You see the problem when a player like McIlroy is marked as a prodigious talent is that anything short of the extraordinary is deemed a failure.

But not many in history can lay claim to the same achievements by this stage of his career than McIlroy can. Against what benchmark should we be monitoring him here?

The successes of Spieth and Koepka are not an indication of a player standing still, more an era in which it is nigh on impossible to stand as a lone dominant force.

McIlroy's top-10 finishes must not be viewed as a sign of failure but as one of a player with remarkable consistency.

No one will be more disappointed than McIlroy himself that things have not quite been able to click all at once over four days in major tournaments over the past five years.

But when it does all come together, and it absolutely will, McIlroy – who has been a victim of his own success – will be a major champion once again.

It was another glorious day at Royal Portush as preparations for the Open Championship continued on Tuesday.

Players aplenty faced the media - including a certain Tiger Woods - and there were a host of big names out on the course.

And they weren't the only ones strolling the stunning links track, with Omnisport's reporters also on the prowl.

Here's a sample of what they happened upon during their travels inside the media tent and beyond...

 

NO PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT?

Brooks Koepka's record is a peculiar thing.

The world number one has won four of the past 10 majors and placed second at the Masters and U.S. Open either side of defending the US PGA Championship in the first three major tournaments of 2019.

But he is only a twice a winner on the regular PGA Tour. So what's the difference?

"I just practice before the majors. Regular tournaments I don't practice. If you've seen me on TV, that's when I play golf," he said to laughter from the press pack.

Top marks for honesty there, Brooks.

PINT OF GUINNESS, TIGER?

Tiger Woods was in a jovial mood during his media conference, which as ever was the best attended of them all.

When asked if he'd had chance to have a sip of Guinness, the three-time Open winner offered this assessment of one of the more popular Irish delicacies.

"This week? No, not this week. In the past...hmm," he joked.

 

LOST IN THE ROUGH

One of the joys of covering an Open Championship is heading out on the course to take in the sights and catch a bit of golf.

On practice days, with reduced crowds, it's an opportunity to follow some of the big names without having to contend with the masses that follow the action during the tournament.

But the plans of one Omnisport reporter, who set out to watch Brooks Koepka, were thwarted by some poor navigation and, in fairness, a little bit of bad luck.

If you take a wrong turn on this course and get stuck the wrong side of one of the boundary ropes that funnel spectators down certain pathways, you can end up a long way from where you want to be.

And so it proved for this lost reporter, who never did track down Koepka and was left instead to watch Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who has won four fewer majors than the American.

A lot has changed in the world over the past 25 years but one thing has remained remarkably consistent in that time – Phil Mickelson's Official World Golf Ranking.

Incredibly, the American has never been outside the top 50 players during the last quarter of a century.

During that time, Mickelson has become a three-time Masters champion and has also won The Open in 2013 as well as the US PGA Championship in 2005.

Mickelson, now 49, was presented with a special award for his astounding achievement at Royal Portrush on Tuesday, two days prior to the start of the 148th Open Championship.

"It's a special honour to be able to have this, I feel very fortunate to be able to play golf," said Mickelson, who surpassed 25 years in November. 

"To be recognised for this achievement, I'm very grateful.

"My passion for the game and my love for the game of golf always consumes my thoughts."

Justin Rose has questioned the decision to tinker with the scheduling of major tournaments in 2019 and feels the events are "too condensed".

This year saw the US PGA Championship switch from August to May, meaning all four major championships were scheduled for four consecutive months between April and July.

The idea behind the decision was to give more precedence to the season-ending FedEx Cup Playoffs on the PGA Tour, which will this year conclude in August to avoid clashes with the start of the NFL season.

But Rose, speaking ahead of the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush, believes the new format does not give enough precedence to the majors or allow players to fully find their groove.

"One major a month, I think in my opinion they're too soon," he said.

"It's too condensed. As a professional in terms of trying to peak for something, the process that's involved in trying to do that can be detailed and it can be longer than a month. So that's my reasoning for that.

"But I also think it's pretty much driven by FedExCup, wanting to finish on a certain date, everything else having to fit in where it can.

"For me a major championship should be the things that are protected the most. That's how all of our careers ultimately are going to be measured. 

"Thirty, 40 years ago there wasn't a FedExCup so if you're trying to compare one career to another career, Jack [Nicklaus] versus Tiger [Woods], it's the majors that are the benchmarks. For them to be tweaked so much I think is quite interesting at this point."

Rose placed in a tie for second at The Open at Carnoustie 12 months ago, two shots shy of Francesco Molinari.

The Englishman was also well in contention at last month's U.S. Open but struggled to find his rhythm on the final day and finished joint-third.

Rose is not surprised he has been unable to add to the solitary major title he won at the 2013 U.S. Open, but remains confident of winning more of golf's big four trophies.

"They are hard to win and you've seen great players not win one. I'm still obviously grateful to have that major under my belt," he added. 

"I've had three second-place finishes in majors since then. Augusta [in 2017 when he lost a play-off to Sergio Garcia at the Masters], that was one-arm-in-the-jacket type situation but you never skip through a career without a little bit of heartache along the way.

"I feel like I'd like maybe a couple more chances, but I've definitely given myself some looks and if I keep doing that I know the door will open again."

Gary Woodland says his wife, Gabby, convinced him to play in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush this week, even though she is due to give birth to twins in a fortnight.

Woodland, who claimed his first major title by holding off defending champion Brooks Koepka at last month's U.S. Open, was asked if it was a difficult decision to travel to Northern Ireland for the final major of 2019, considering the status of his wife's pregnancy.

"Yeah, [it was] definitely difficult," he told a news conference. "She's doing all right. She's semi-bedrest right now. Our girls are supposed to come in two weeks. So it was a decision, we sat down and we talked about it. And she was the one pushing me to come.

"[I'm] pretty confident they're not going to come this week, but you never know. I'm hoping that's the case.

"Next week, Memphis is only an hour away from home. I can get home pretty easily. It would be a little tough if they came right now, I'm not going to be able to get home. But she's hanging in there."

Woodland, who will play the opening two rounds this week alongside Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey, revealed his U.S. Open trophy has spent the past month on his nightstand, adding: "You want to wake up and make sure it's not a dream. You want to make sure it's real."

He continued: "I was thinking about letting my parents have it this week, but I ended up keeping it. It's at home. It's right next to Gabby. She is looking at it all the time. I don't know if she's excited about that, but it's been pretty close to me."

Although Woodland's triumph at Pebble Beach raised his profile, it appears he will have little trouble going under the radar at Portrush.

"Kuch [Matt Kuchar] and I went to breakfast yesterday, and I took about 20 pictures for him. Nobody knew who I was, they all knew who he was," Woodland added.

"He loved every second of that, I can tell you. But definitely probably more [people recognise me] than it would have been maybe a couple of months ago."

Tiger Woods lauded the remarkable consistency of Brooks Koepka at major championships despite being the victim of an apparent snub from his compatriot.

Koepka heads into this week's Open having won four of the last 10 majors and occupying the world number one ranking.

The 29-year-old has frequently insisted he does not get the recognition his achievements deserve, and reiterated that point again on Tuesday.

But when Woods spoke to the media shortly after Koepka had done so at Royal Portrush, there was no shortage of praise from the 15-time major champion towards a man whose record at the most recent four has been first, tied second, first, second.

"What he's done in the last four major championships has been just unbelievable," said Woods, who won the 2019 Masters at the expense of Koepka, among others, to end an 11-year drought in golf's big four events.

"To be so consistent, so solid. He's been in contention to win each and every major championship."

Woods did, however, recount what might be considered a revealing story about Koepka, who appears reluctant to give his legendary rival any competitive edge in Northern Ireland, having narrowly missed out on the green jacket himself.

"Tell you a funny story," Woods began. "I texted Brooksie congratulations on another great finish [at Augusta].

"And I said, 'Hey, dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round?'.

"I've heard nothing."

Woods will be seeking a fourth Claret Jug at Portrush, with or without Koepka's assistance.

Tiger Woods acknowledged the physical and emotional toll of winning the Masters "took a lot out of me" as he admitted he still struggles to comprehend his Augusta victory.

Golf's biggest star ended an 11-year wait for his 15th major title by winning a fifth green jacket in April.

It was a mightily impressive achievement by the 43-year-old, whose well-documented injury struggles left many doubting whether he would win another major.

Since triumphing at the Masters, Woods missed the cut at the US PGA Championship and placed 21st at the U.S. Open either side of a top-10 finish at the Memorial Tournament, and he says the demanding nature of Augusta left its mark.

"Getting myself into position to win the Masters, it took a lot out of me. That golf course puts so much stress on the system," he said on Tuesday ahead of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

"Then if you look at that leaderboard after Francesco [Molinari] made the mistake at 12, it seemed like seven, eight guys had a chance to win the golf tournament with only six holes to play. So, it became very crowded.

"A lot of different scenarios happened. I was reading the leaderboard all the time trying to figure out what the number is going to be, who is on what hole. And it took quite a bit out of me.

"Seeing my kids there, they got a chance to experience The Open Championship last year after their dad took the lead, and then made a few mistakes. And this time they got to see me win a major championship. So, it was special for us as a family.

"My mom was still around. She was there, in '97, my dad was there, and now my kids were there. It was a very emotional week and one that I keep reliving. 

"It's hard to believe that I pulled it off and I end up winning the tournament."

Prior to finishing tied sixth in The Open at Carnoustie last year, Woods suggested the tournament presented arguably his best chance of winning more major titles in his 40s.

It is a belief he still holds, despite his famous Masters victory.

"It does [offer me the best chance to win more majors]," he added. "It allows the players that don't hit the ball very far or carry the ball as far to run the golf ball out there. 

"And plus, there is an art to playing links golf. The more I've played over here and played under different conditions, being able to shape the golf ball both ways and really control trajectory, it allows you to control the ball on the ground. 

"And as we know, it's always moundy and it's hard to control the ball on the ground.

"But being able to control it as best you possibly can in the air to control it on the ground allows the older players to have a chance to do well in The Open Championship."

Brooks Koepka is not entirely satisfied with his excellent major record this year because "finishing second sucks".

The world number one has a phenomenal return in golf's big four tournaments over the past few years, having won four and collected top fives in three others dating back to the 2016 US PGA Championship.

In 2019 alone, Koepka has recorded a pair of second-place finishes either side of defending the PGA title he also clinched last year.

But Koepka is only interested in wins, having come up just short of a maiden Masters triumph in April. 

"I hold myself to high expectations. The whole reason I show up is to win. That's what I'm trying to do," he said ahead of the 148th Open Championship.

"It's incredible but at the same time it's been quite disappointing. Finishing second sucks, it really does. 

"But you've just got to get over it and kind of realise that any time you put yourself in contention, you learn from it and move on.

"I made a mistake there at 12 at Augusta. It really wasn't that big of a mistake, the wind direction, for four out of six guys to put the ball in the water, everybody knows that the wind does whatever it wants on that hole and you just get unlucky.

"And then at the U.S. Open I just got flat-out beat. Sometimes that's going to happen. You've just got to get over it and move on."

Koepka has spoken in the past of playing with a chip on his shoulder, believing his achievements have not drawn the recognition they deserve.

The 29-year-old says it is an approach he will always take, but he is no longer interested if the acclaim does not come his away.

"I think you always have to have a chip on your shoulder, no matter what it is. Every great athlete has one," he added.

"Like I said, over the last year and a half, I just felt like if other guys had done what I had done it would be a bigger deal. Now it doesn't matter to me. I've got my own chip on my shoulder for what I'm trying to accomplish.

"I'm over that. I'm over trying to get the recognition. You either like me or you don't, that's life in general. That's not anything I'm too concerned about at this moment."

This week will be a particularly special one for Koepka, whose caddie Rickie Elliot hails from Portrush, where The Open is being held for the first time since 1951.

Asked if there was a part of him playing for Elliot this week, Koepka replied: "Yes, absolutely. 

"There would be nothing cooler. Put it this way, I don't think when he grew up that he ever thought there would be an Open Championship here. 

"And to top it off, I don't think he ever thought he'd be a part of it. And to be caddying and to be able to win one here would be - he'd be a legend, wouldn't he? He already is. But it would be cool to see him win."

Fairy tales have enthralled, entertained and educated us for centuries.

Whether it be a lesson in morality, a magical escape or a triumph for good over evil, fairy tales have the exceptional ability to let us escape from reality.

It is a formula that succeeds time and time again. The problem is when it comes to sport, however, the lines become blurred and there is no one formula to follow.

Sport has no room for sentimentality, no time for history, no interest in assuaging our desires for the feel-good narrative. There is not always a lesson to be taught, nor always a battle between good and bad.

Just ask Tom Watson and Stewart Cink, who were part of a real-life fable that will live forever in golfing folklore.

Once upon a time, Watson was considered among the best players on the planet. At the peak of his powers in the 1970s and early 80s there was a magic and aura about the American great that resulted in eight major championships.

But, as with any great sports star, time eventually caught up with the great champion, which is what made the story of the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry so special.

By this point of his career, Watson was 59. His last major success was back in 1983, when he clinched a fifth Open at Royal Birkdale.

And yet, despite pre-tournament odds of 1500-1 and hip replacement surgery just nine months prior, Watson was on the brink of the most remarkable of victories, one which would have made him the oldest major winner of all time.

Even when Watson rolled back the years with an opening-round 65 that left him one off the lead, it was hard to imagine what we were witnessing was anything other than a nostalgic throwback to a bygone era.

Through 36 holes, though, there was an ever-increasing feeling of 'what if?' A gritty level-par round in tricky Ayrshire conditions left Watson tied for the lead. He couldn't...could he?

By the end of Saturday - which yielded a one-over 71, enough to take the outright lead - the most far-fetched dream was becoming a scarcely believable reality.

A couple of bogeys early on the Sunday hinted that the rigours of major golf on a 59-year-old's body had finally caught up. But even as Ross Fisher and then Mathew Goggin moved ahead, Watson refused to slip quietly into the background.

As the day progressed, there was drama that even Martin Scorsese in his full, creative flow could not have scripted.

While Lee Westwood played himself in and out of contention, Cink climbed the leaderboard and rolled in a 15-footer at the last to join Watson on two under and crank up the pressure. However, Watson replied to the situation with a gain of his own at 17, meaning he was just four strokes away from creating history.

Yet the fairy-tale nature of the weekend was replaced by the cruel reality of professional sport. A crisp eight iron sailed over the green, while his third back onto the putting surface left a tricky 10-footer for victory. The putt, as would be the case for Watson's efforts over the weekend, came up just short.

There was still the lottery of a play-off, yet the grind of the previous four days finally took their toll as Cink made a major breakthrough in a one-sided extra four holes.

So near, yet so far. For Watson, there was little solace to take from a herculean effort that had warmed the hearts of those watching, both at the venue and on television.

"It's a great disappointment. It [losing] tears at your gut, as it always has torn at my gut. It's not easy to take," he reflected after the final round.

For Cink, too, the gravitas of what had transpired on that fateful final day was tough to comprehend.

"I'm a little intimidated by this piece of hardware here," Cink admitted following his win. "There are a lot of emotions running through my mind and heart and I'm as proud as I can be to be here with this.

"It was fun watching Tom all week and I'm sure I speak for all the rest of the people too."

It's easy to feel for Cink. The 2009 Open was the crowning glory of his career but he he is somewhat the forgotten champion, such was the narrative that played out around him.

Since lifting the Claret Jug, Cink has failed to win another trophy on the PGA or European Tour.

But this is where those blurred fairy-tale lines come into play. This was never a story of good versus evil, never a tale of morality.

More just an epic event encapsulating sporting theatre, with a dream ending never getting to see the light of day. Certainly from Watson's point of view, it was the greatest fairy tale never told.

"It would have been a hell of a story, wouldn't it?" Watson said.

It sure would have been, Tom, it sure would have been.

Former prime minister Harold Wilson is the man said to have coined the famous phrase "a week is a long time in politics".

Such a notion is also true in the world of sports, where an ever-changing landscape means opportunities to stand and reflect are scarce.

But if the whole scene can alter in a week, imagine how contrasting things can be following a 68-year gap.

That is how long it has been since The Open Championship was last hosted at Royal Portrush, the picturesque venue for the 148th edition of golf's oldest major.

Indeed, it has been so long since the Claret Jug was last awarded at Portrush to Max Faulkner that Wilson's phrase had not been uttered at the time, with the former Labour politician credited with bringing it to life in 1964.

With that in mind, we look back at how golf, the wider sporting world, politics and pop culture looked back in 1951.


GOLF

The great Ben Hogan swept up the first two major tournaments of the year, the Masters and U.S. Open, while fellow legend Sam Snead was the US PGA Championship winner.

However, neither American great was in action at Portrush where Faulkner, nicknamed ‘The Peacock’ lifted the Claret Jug.

Known for his flamboyant dress sense, Faulkner would win his one and only major title on a day in which he had greatly tempted fate by signing a ball for a young fan with the message "Max Faulkner - Open Champion 1951". 

His approach out of the rough after a wayward tee shot at the 16th, which was left worryingly close to the out of bounds line, was described as "The greatest shot I've ever seen" by playing partner Frank Stranahan.

Later that year, the United States would beat Britain 9.5 – 2.5 at the Ryder Cup.


ELSEWHERE IN SPORTS

The European Cup was still four years away from its inception in football. Domestically, Tottenham secured a first English top-flight title in their history, while Newcastle United were FA Cup winners - the first of three triumphs in a five-year span.

Atletico Madrid defended their LaLiga title in Spain, while AC Milan dethroned Juventus in Italy and Kaiserslautern were champions in Germany.

The NFL held its first Pro Bowl Game in Los Angeles in January 1951, the year the Los Angeles Rams were championship winners. It would be 15 years until the beginning of the Super Bowl era.

A New York Yankees team consisting of future Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Joe Di Maggio celebrated World Series success in MLB - the second of four in a row - and in the NBA the Rochester Royals defeated the New York Knicks 4-3 in the Finals.

Dick Savitt claimed his two career tennis grand slams at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, with Jaroslav Drobny and Frank Sedgman winning in France and the United States respectively.

Ireland clinched Five Nations glory in rugby union and Hugo Koblet of Switzerland took the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.


POLITICS

In Great Britain, the pendulum of power at Westminster swung the way of the Conservative party in 1951.

Clement Attlee's Labour government was ousted from power as Winston Churchill was elected for his second term as prime minister.

The Korean War had been waging for a year by the time The Open was at Portrush, as the tensions of the Cold War continued to run high.

President Harry S. Truman was midway through his second term in the United States, having assumed the presidency after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945.

Joseph Stalin was still General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It would be two years before Stalin's death.


POP CULTURE

The album charts in the United Kingdom would not start until a year later, but Bing Crosby and Doris Day were enjoying success on both sides of the Atlantic.

Perry ComoNat King Cole and Tony Bennett were among the artists to have number one singles in the United States, as the world would have to wait a few years to be treated to the vocal talents of Elvis Presley and a decade for The Beatles.

J.D. Salinger's literary classic 'The Catcher in the Rye' was published on July 16, just 10 days after the finish of The Open at Portrush.

Jose Ferrer and Judy Holliday were recognised with the respective best actor and actress gongs at the Academy Awards, where All About Eve was named best motion picture for which Joseph L. Mankiewicz swept up best director.

How do you top what happened on Sunday?

That question will be asked by the R&A in the next few days ahead of the 148th Open Championship after a weekend of phenomenal sporting drama.

At Lord's, hosts and pre-tournament favourites England won the men's Cricket World Cup for the first time in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Ben Stokes' heroics with the bat took England into an unlikely Super Over with New Zealand, after a scarcely believable final six balls yielded the 15 runs England required to tie the game.

The drama was not over there, not even close.

England posted New Zealand a target of 16 in their additional over. The Black Caps could only match their opponents despite Jofra Archer coughing up a wide on his first delivery and then being hit for six, meaning Eoin Morgan's men won by the way of boundary count in a finale befitting any Hollywood blockbuster.

Just down the road at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer served up a five-set classic in the men's singles final.

The two modern-day greats went toe to toe as Wimbledon's new rule enforced from 2019 saw a final-set tie-break come into play at 12-12. It was Djokovic who defended his title to deny Federer a ninth Wimbledon crown and 21st slam overall after almost five hours of gruelling, gripping tennis.

A Super Over, a super tie-break, a super day of unimaginable sport. 

Which is why there will be so much expectation on golf's biggest stars to deliver when The Open returns to Royal Portrush for the first time in 68 years.

If the action on the course can be as mesmerising as the picturesque backdrops surrounding the Dunluce Links then it will be job done. There is a growing sense that the game's biggest stars need to deliver a show, though.

How tournament organisers would love a repeat of Tiger Woods' dramatic Masters triumph in April, which ended his 11-year wait for major glory.

A fourth Open triumph was on the cards a year ago at Carnoustie when Woods surged into contention, only to fall away in what was a familiar story in 2018 as Francesco Molinari claimed a richly deserved win.

The crowds following Woods that day were 10-people deep, desperately scrambling for the best vantage point of the global icon. That is the draw he has - how timely it would be for golf if he could generate that same buzz at Portrush.

One man who will draw the crowds regardless of performance is Rory McIlroy, who will carry the weight of an expectant home crowd on his shoulders.

It was back in 2005 as a precocious, curly haired 16-year-old that McIlroy took Portrush to bits in the North of Ireland Championship to fire a course-record 61.

Changes to the course since mean such heroics are unlikely to be repeated, but McIlroy will be aware that now is the prime time to end a barren run of five years without a major title.

Brooks Koepka is another with the skills to bring the thrills having turned himself into a major-winning machine. Were it not for Gary Woodland's fantastic performance at Pebble Beach, he would have had a third consecutive U.S. Open to his name last month.

The rest of a star-studded field can play their part too, with recent history suggesting we can get a tournament to rival the dramas that unfolded elsewhere on Sunday. It is three years since Henrik Stenson outbattled Phil Mickelson in one the most memorable final days in Open history at Troon, while a year later it was Jordan Spieth's recovery from an infamous meltdown to deny Matt Kuchar that stole the headlines at Birkdale.

A daunting gauntlet has admittedly been laid down by the events at Lord's and Wimbledon, but golf will hope the star turns can take centre stage at Portrush.

It's been 68 years since Royal Portrush last hosted The Open Championship and excitement is building ahead of the start of the 148th edition of the tournament.

Sunday was the first official practice day and several players took to the course a day later to get familiar with a venue most in the field will never have played.

And there was plenty going on around the course as the build-up kicks into gear.

Below, Omnisport's team on the ground round up some of the best goings on in Northern Ireland.

 

TIGER'S TEE TROUBLES

Nothing can make your own golf abilities feel quite so inadequate as watching the pros tee it up at The Open.

But, rest assured, even the greatest of greats can encounter a few woes out on the course, even 15-time major winners like Tiger Woods!

While preparing to hit off at the 11th, Woods needed a few attempts to get his ball to stay on the tee, much to the amusement of the watching patrons and the party involved with his playing group that included Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.

"God damn it!" Tiger exclaimed. "My short little tees just don't work."


WATER GOOD IDEA BY THE OPEN

We all want to do our bit to help protect the environment, right?

Well the good folks here at The Open do as well and this year the tournament has removed all single-use plastic bottles.

In their place, players (and indeed members of the media) have been provided with special edition refillable bottles, with water stations placed all around the course.

Good on you, folks.

GOODBYE, AT LEAST FOR NOW, MY FRIEND

None of us here at Omnisport have ever triumphed in a major golf tournament, nor do we expect any of us ever will…

But it's easy to imagine that the toughest part of winning a Claret Jug is handing it back a year later.

That's exactly what defending champion Francesco Molinari had to do on Monday and the Italian had to ensure the famous trophy was kept in some safe places…

"I was very, very careful with it, especially the first few weeks," he said.

"We've had a couple of drinks out of it. Nothing out of the ordinary. I've got small kids at home so I had to keep it out of reach most of the time to avoid disaster!"

 

CLARET CHUG?

Jordan Spieth is a man who knows how to win a Claret Jug, having triumphed in a day of high drama at Royal Birkdale a couple of years back.

And to start his latest tilt for a second Open Championship, Spieth partook in an American pastime of chugging down a can…

Although we're not entirely sure what was in inside.

In Portrush, the scenic Northern Irish coastal town playing host to this year's Open Championship, there is an ice cream parlour that boasts a rendering of Francesco Molinari made entirely from sprinkles.

It must have taken some considerable work to put together but by all accounts it was worth the effort, if you like that sort of thing. Not that Molinari has been to see it.

He is a busy man and not nearly as frivolous as the edible artwork created in his likeness. His focus this week is on retaining the Claret Jug he won last year in no less painstaking a manner than one imagines would be required to pay homage to a man via the medium of confectionery. 

Building up to the 2018 Open at Carnoustie the Italian was firmly under the radar, not considered a genuine challenger, and that seemed a fair assessment when he closed Friday's round six shots adrift.

But something happened over that weekend in Scotland that transformed Molinari. Or, perhaps more accurately, transformed the perception of Molinari.

You see, the man himself appears immune to change. Before becoming Champion Golfer of the Year, he was placid, low-key, modest. And afterwards? He was still all of those things, but somehow more so.

Amid the hype and hyperbole of his maiden major, secured by a stunning 65 on the Saturday and a nerveless, bogey-free 69 on the Sunday that saw him pull clear of a chasing pack featuring far glitzier names, Molinari's restraint was almost unimpeachable.

And suddenly people were interested in this quiet, unassuming man, whose reserved nature only caused him to be thrust further into the spotlight. He was a curio, worthy of closer scrutiny; people wanted to know what made him tick, or if his introversion was something he fought, something to be overcome.

During a media conference ahead of the Ryder Cup he was labelled "insular", the reporter who made the claim drawing a stark contrast between Molinari and the majority of his European team-mates, whose more expressive characters were painted as more desirable.

The answer was unemotional but considered, and it was absolutely true - "There's no point in trying to be something that you're not".

Of course, Molinari went on to light up Le Golf National with a perfect record, forming one half of the legendary 'Moliwood' duo with Tommy Fleetwood, a double act where nobody had any trouble identifying the straight man. And he did it his way - calmly, without fuss.

The quiet man brought an entire continent to a crescendo. Again, perceptions changed, but he did not.

And now, heading into this week at Portrush as the reigning champion, there are new expectations to deal with, the kind that come with being firmly on the radar, and not at all under it.

After the Masters, where Molinari slept on a two-stroke lead heading into a final day in which he shot a 74 to finish two behind eventual winner Tiger Woods, he is also having to deal with everyone realising he is indeed human, and therefore not entirely unaffected by pressure.

With that collapse, the myth of the unflappable Molinari - a ridiculous one at any rate - could no longer survive. But that was only ever the perception, and not one Molinari was invested in.

He is much more complex than the timid and reticent golfer so ripe for parody. Not unlike a masterpiece made of ice cream sprinkles - the closer you look, the more you find there is to admire.

So it was with little fanfare that Molinari held his media conference on Monday. It was not a packed room, there was little in the way of well-worn anecdotes, or of misty-eyed reminiscences. His Portrush canvas is blank for now, but ready for a sprinkling of Molinari magic.

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