Rory McIlroy believes he can shrug off the pressure on his shoulders and become the youngest Open winner for 107 years.
The Holywood hotshot, 21, will be playing in only his third Open when he tees it up with Lucas Glover and Tim Clark tomorrow.
And he insists that while he has another 30 years to contend for majors, he’s ready to join the immortals like Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus by winning the Claret Jug at the Home of Golf.
Inspired by pal Graeme McDowell’s US Open win, McIlroy said: “I’m not putting myself under pressure to perform. I’m just quite confident. I’ve played well on this golf course before and I feel as if I’m hitting it well coming in.
“Seeing G-Mac win, it just feels like it’s the right time to go out and play well and win one of these big events.”
McIlroy’s never shot worse than 69 in eight competitive rounds on the Old Course.
The bookies have made his second favourite behind world No 1 Tiger Woods and he sees no reason why he can’t go out and give the punters a big pay-day.
Unafraid of the pressure, McIlroy said: “I think a lot of people are backing me because they want me to do well more than anything else.
“I knew that I’d come in here as one of the favourites and if I go out and play this golf course the way I know I can, I should have a good chance.
“I’ve played well here in the past and if I don’t let the occasion get the better of me, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it again.
“I’m expecting myself to play well and I’m sure a lot of people are expecting me to play well.”
The world No 9 intends to feed off some memorable performances in the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews.
In 2007, he earned his tour card when he finished third and backed that up claiming eighth place in 2008 and second last season.
Becoming overawed by the occasion is a danger but McIlroy has tried hard to escape the spotlight,
He practiced on the Old Course last Friday and Saturday but then headed home to continue his perparations, playing links golf with his dad at Royal County Down.
He said: “You can get swallowed up with the whole occasion because it’s St Andrews and it’s the Open, especially being the 150th anniversary and everything.
“I’m just trying to stay as low profile as possible, if that’s possible, take it easy and make sure that I’m full of energy on Thursday morning and ready for the next four days.”
World No 11 McDowell is ten years older that McIlroy but still believes his close pal has enough experience not to be overawed by the occasion.
McDowell said: “Rory is a very experienced young man for a 21 year old golfer. He’s been on the big stage before. I don’t think there’s any risk he’ll get overexcited.
“It’s great to see the sort of inspiration that the like of me winning at Pebble can bring to your friends and your colleagues and British and Irish golfers in general.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of guys out there this week that will have watched me at Pebble and believe they can win a major sooner rather than later.
“It’s great to be able to have a part of a purple patch of European golf right now. I really think Rory has a great chance this week.
“I think he loves this golf course and he’s got a pretty mature head on young shoulders, and he’s got the game to do it.”