Drawn alongside home favourite, Darren Clarke in the first group at 6.35am, Mallow’s Amateur Champion, James Sugrue has been getting acquainted with the new set-up at Portrush since Monday as he looks to familiarise himself with the circus that surrounds one of golf’s four Majors.
“It’s definitely playing a little bit longer,” said Sugrue. “There’s a few tee boxes that I didn’t even know were there before.
“Other than that, the grandstands here, there and everywhere, they are a bit different. I’ve played here numerous times. I’m just trying to block out all those grandstands and all those people and just try and play decent golf.”
What decent golf would be for Sugrue is making the halfway cut, a bold but realistic target for the Corkonian who’s refusing to get ahead of himself with goal setting just yet.
“Hopefully to make the cut, anyway, that’s the first goal. And then kind of go from there. I don’t really have any number in my head, to be top-20 or top-30 or anything. I’m just going to try to make the cut first of all. And most importantly, I’m just going to try and enjoy myself and see where it takes me.”
Alongside a familiar face in Clarke for the first two days should provide some comfort to the 22-year old with Sugrue admitting to feeling the pressure on the first tee of his practice round on Monday.
“I was actually quite nervous hitting my first tee shot today,” he added. “The grandstands just come right around you and you can almost — like there wasn’t even that many people in the grandstands, so I can only imagine what it’s going to be like on Thursday!”
“Darren’s pretty laid back. And I won’t be — hopefully I won’t be too intimidated by him, anyway. So, yeah, hopefully we can just kind of feed off each other and play some decent golf.
“He’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anyone to be able to hit a driver off the deck like he does. You tell him what shot to hit and he can hit it. He’s one of the best ball-strikers out there. I can’t wait to play with him.”
For now though, Sugrue is still pinching himself, not least due to the esteemed company that he’s keeping this week in the Portrush locker room.
“It’s cool, really, to just be in the locker room and — this little corner where it’s like the champions corner. Tiger’s locker is behind mine and Ernie Els is next to me. It’s a bit surreal.
“To be on the range and DJ is at the other side of the range, and Marc Leishman is right next to me. It is pretty cool.”