Connor Syme thrilled to be back at Portrush but favourite holes are gone

While delighted on the one hand to be playing in the Open Championship for the second time in three years, Connor Syme is disappointed on the other to have seen his two lucky holes at Royal Portrush taken away, writes Martin Dempster.

Connor Syme's two favourite holes at Royal Portrush are no more. Picture: SNS Group

The old 17th and 18th on the Dunluce Links are the site for the spectator village this week, as two new holes, which have become the seventh and eighth, were created for the return of the Claret Jug event after a 68-year absence.

“The two new holes are excellent. They look like they’ve been there the whole time,” observed Syme before admitting he had good cause to lament the loss of that old finish at the County Antrim venue.

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“Although the new holes are a good addition, I’m disappointed because the 17th and 18th were so good to me during the Amateur Championship,” he added, referring to his run to the semi-finals in 2014 before he lost to compatriot and eventual winner Bradley Neil.

Open Championship starter David Lancaster. Picture: Matthew Lewis/Getty

“I felt like I played 17 and 18 just about every day that week. It was a long, long week. But good, obviously. Every single tie, I felt like I was one down coming up the last two and just managed to get through.”

Syme secured his return this week by coming through one of the final qualifiers, having used the same route when making his debut in the game’s oldest major at Royal Birkdale in 2017. The 24-year-old from Drumoig missed the cut by four shots on that occasion but aims to use the experience to good effect as he steps back on to one of the sport’s biggest stages as a professional.

“It feels amazing to be back at Portrush,” said Syme. “The course is looking absolutely class and I can’t wait to get going. It’s going to be awesome. The course, it all kind of comes back to you. We played here in the men’s Home Internationals the year after the Amateur, as well. I have played it a good few times. So you remember different shots you might have played, where the run-offs are, that comes back quite quickly.

On that appearance in the event two years ago, Syme was announced as “Sim” by starter David Lancaster, pictured, on the first tee in both his rounds. So, third-time lucky hopefully? “Oh, he apologised to me last time,” said the former Australian Amateur champion with a smile. “Hopefully he doesn’t have to apologise to me again because he’ll get it right. Fingers crossed.”