Neil relishing Open chance

After playing with Rory McIlroy in a practice round at Augusta last month, Neil was invited by McIlroy himself to play at Royal County Down.

Neil won the Amateur championship last year after defeating Zander Lombard 2 & 1 to qualify for the Masters for the first time, but he missed the cut in Georgia.

He told Sky Sports News HQ: “I got my invite from Rory and it makes it all the more special that he is here. He has been able to attract all the big names to Northern Ireland this week, so it makes it more special for me and all the other amateurs who are playing in it.

“Whenever I have been in Ireland I have yet to play a bad golf course and this one is ranked right up there.

“I played at Portrush last year and this course looks just as beautiful. Obviously I am thrilled to be here and excited to get out on the course as see what everyone is raving about.”

McIlroy failed to make the cut in the PGA championship at Wentworth last week, but Neil expects to see the world No 1 back on top of his game this week.

He said: “Two wins out of the last four weeks is just incredible and although he didn’t make the cut last week (at Wentworth) it just shows that he is human.

“Obviously he’ll be happy that he got the weekend off, and got a rest and could prepare well for this tournament. He’ll want to win this as much as any tournament, this will be like a fifth major to him. I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays this week.”