McIlroy's 61 unlikely to be repeated on new Dunluce
The revamped Royal Portrush course for the 2019 Open Championship will not be 'Rory-proofed' but Darren Clarke warned that McIlroy would have to play sensational golf to shoot 61 on the Dunluce Links again.
Clarke, when reminded that McIlroy shot 61 in qualifying for the North of Ireland amateur Championship in 2005, grinned and said: "Rory has done and will do anything. But it will be a very good 61."
Work is in progress on altering the Dunluce layout, lengthening it by 200 yards to 7,337 yards for the Open.
The current 17th and 18th holes will be taken out to make room for the Spectator Village and Championship infrastructure.
Land from the Valley course is being used to create new seventh and eighth holes, while other changes are being undertaken by golf course architect Martin Ebert to enhance the challenge for the world's best golfers.
Ebert's task is to develop the basic layout designed originally by Harry Colt while remaining true to the majestic duneland and quality of the land on which the Portrush links is situated.
Three new bunkers will be added, bringing the total to 62, leaving Royal Portrush with the smallest amount of bunkers of any of the nine courses currently on the Open rota.
Darren Clarke approves of Ebert's concepts and alterations.
"Whenever I went round with Martin and he explained them to me, I could really understand them. Then the more I looked at them, I thought, 'That's going to make this even better.'
"There is a difference between making it better and making it tougher. He is making it better," said Clarke.
Irrespective of the wind and weather factors, the 2011 Open champion is adamant that whoever wins in 2019 will earn their title the hard way.
"I think this one is tighter than many other Open championship venues.
"You stand on the ninth out there and you have got to hit the fairway, that is a big ask.
"The 16th tee is a big ask. The penalty for missing greens around here is huge.
"There is pressure on your tee-shots and there is pressure on your second shots because old Harry Colt used the natural contours and built the greens into what was there.
"You don't see a lot of that these days. You don't see the run-offs, though we will have a few of those.
"The course is very demanding from tee to green. What is it now, 12th in the world? If it's not ranked amongst the top five in the world after these changes, I will be amazed because this is as fair a links course as you will ever play," he added.