Rory is ready for the madness as world tunes in for new hero

Ulsterman's arrival brings Open venue to a standstill – but only after the R&A forget to pick him up

Rory McIlroy's bid to defy history here at this week's Open Championship hardly got off to the most encouraging start yesterday. The 22-year-old flew from Belfast to Manston, but when he arrived at the small Kent airport he found no car and no way of travelling the six miles to Sandwich.

The Royal and Ancient had booked the chauffeur for the wrong time and a stranded McIlroy was forced to phone his manager. Chubby Chandler later revealed that there were two cars to pick up Ernie Els, McIlroy's partner for the first two rounds. Chaos, was the word on everybody's lips.

McIlroy eventually arrived at the course before lunchtime and did so to a welcome usually reserved for Tiger Woods. Huge crowds watched the Ulsterman chip and putt. He did not venture out on to the links, but will play his one and only practice round in competition week this morning. As the Woods comparisons become stronger and stronger, he will tee off with his countryman Darren Clarke at 6.30am. That's Tiger's time.

And his odds are also becoming positively Tigeresque. Ladbrokes reported two bets of £20,000 at 8-1 on the US Open champion becoming the first debutant winner of a major to win the very next major since the Second World War. When asked if these were gambles of "shrewd punters or desperate men", he replied: "I'll go for the first option."

It was a typically assured performance by this remarkable young man. There were twice as many journalists crammed into the interview room as there had been for Luke Donald, the world No 1, a little earlier. The press conference was shown live on American TV, but McIlroy was not overawed. He dismissed fears about his preparation – a three-week break following the US Open which saw him attend as many high-profile sporting events as he did sponsors' days – and spoke of his confidence. "I'm glad I didn't play after looking at what happened in Scotland last week," said McIlroy, referring to the storms which hit Castle Stuart. "If I played in France I knew I wouldn't be giving myself the best chance to prepare properly. The last 10 days have been good. I've got back into my routine. I was here last week and got in two good practice rounds and feel my preparation has been really good. I have to forget what happened three weeks ago and just try to win another golf tournament."

McIlroy knows this is anything but another golf tournament. When he tees off at 9.09am in the company of Els and the American Rickie Fowler tomorrow, there will be a media presence rivalling that of the galleries. "It's going to be madness," said Chandler. Yet McIlroy insists he will be unfazed. "I'm the sort of person that likes to have people watching," said the player who has led seven of the eight major rounds played so far this year. "I like to have a bit of a buzz around the group. I'll definitely enjoy it. Hey, it's not going to be the first time I'll play in front of big crowds. Last time I played a competitive round of golf, I had a pretty big crowd following me."

Whatever he wishes, the memories of Congressional will burn bright when he resumes his career. But as McIlroy pointed out, "This is a completely different golf course. It's firm and fast and with the wind you're going to have to keep the ball low," he added. "But sometimes it's hard to run the ball into the greens because they're so undulating and the ball can bounce so many different ways. So you'll need a strong ball flight."

McIlroy has been working with his coach, Michael Bannon, on perfecting that shot and insiders in Team Rory revealed the sessions have gone well. "He's chomping at the bit," said one of his handlers. "We should have had raw meat delivered."

McIlroy was asked if he would settle for two 70s after last year's 63-80 opening at St Andrews. "If it's good enough to win, it's good enough for me," he said. "If it's windy I'll take two 70s in the first two rounds here, definitely. But you can't really put a number on it. If the wind keeps up like this, St George's is one of the toughest Open tests that we have. Solid golf is good enough for me, as long as it's better than everyone else's solid golf."

McIlroy's rivals do not know what to expect from the world No 4. Jason Day, the Australian who has finished second in the last two majors, spoke for many when saying: "It's going to be massive for him, he's done it in the past but this is a new experience. He is favourite... and lots of people think he's going to come out and just kill it."

A major front-runner

Rory McIlroy has led after eight of the last 16 rounds in major championships:

2010 The Open (St Andrews) – round one, 63, (finished tied for 3rd)

2011 The Masters – round one, 65

2011 The Masters – round two, 69

2011 The Masters – round three, 70 (Ended tied 15th after final-round 80)

2011 US Open – round one, 65

2011 US Open – round two, 66

2011 US Open – round three, 68

2011 US Open – round four, 69

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before