Woods, McIlroy and golf's elite are in Portrush for a major showdown with a $1.9 million prize

Key Points
  • Around 215,000 golf fans will be making their way to the course at Royal Portrush, with many hoping to see if Rory McIlroy can win in his home country.
  • Or if Tiger Woods can capture a fourth Open title to add to his remarkable Masters win earlier this year.
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The tiny coastal town of Portrush in Northern Ireland will see its population swell by as much as 30 times this week, as the great and the good from the world of golf descend on its shores for the most prestigious of events.

Around 215,000 golf fans will be making their way to the course at Royal Portrush, with many hoping to see if Rory McIlroy can win in his home country, or if Tiger Woods can capture a fourth Open title to add to his remarkable Masters win earlier this year.

It's a course McIlroy understandably knows well and he still holds the course record there, having posted a low score of 61 in 2005, when he was just 15-years-old.

McIlroy guesses that he has played Portrush between 50 and 100 times but only a handful of occasions since a re-design two years ago that included two new holes, including an intimidating 590-yard par five.

He's also all too aware of the old 14th hole, which has now become the 16th, which still retains the daunting name of "Calamity Corner." The stretched 236-yard par three plays up to an elevated green and promises to provide a stern test toward the end of any round played this week.

"It's just so hard for me to wrap my head around the new layout," said McIlroy via NBC's Golf Channel. "I keep calling them the old hole numbers."

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The country as a whole is already a winner, with tournament organizers The Royal & Ancient (R&A) say the Open at Royal Portrush will provide an £80 million ($99.1 million) boost to the Northern Irish economy.

All four days are sold out with fans in one of golf's true heartlands relishing the chance to see the world's best take on a challenging course.

"It's a huge thing for all the Irish golfers, for Northern Ireland, for me, that lives here a little bit, to have The Open Championship," said Northern Irishman Darren Clarke, ahead of the event. "This is huge. This is the biggest and best tournament in the world," the 2011 Open winner added.

The opportunity to host golf's oldest major has been a long time coming for Royal Portrush and it's been 68 years since its one and only appearance on the Open calendar. Back in 1951 English golfer Max Faulkner won the famous Claret Jug, along with a first prize of £300. When adjusted for inflation that figure works out to just under £10,000.

Contrast that with today's prize money where this year's "Champion Golfer" will take home £1.5 million, with Italian Francesco Molinari starting as the defending champion.

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