The classic Rosses Point links at County Sligo Golf Club was where McIlroy spectacularly burst onto the scene with that 2006 West win as a mere 15 year old.
And while there is a host of great players lined up for the start of the title chase today, headed by Maynooth University’s Stuart Grehan and his bid for an East-South-West of Ireland hat-trick last achieved by Joe Carr in 1948, it is the course that is the big protagonist.
With the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on the lookout for new venues now that McIlroy and his Rory Foundation are the hosts, the links is a potential candidate now that it is in the process of being totally revamped by golf architect Pat Ruddy.
The changes are already being spoken about in terms of the challenge they would present a top international field and some of them, when finished, might only be playable for top professional on a spring or summer’s day.
No fewer than eight of the first 12 holes have been enhanced by Ruddy, a Sligo native who admits he always looked at the Harry Colt’s great links “with lover’s eyes”.
Grehan is determined to wrest the title from Dermot McElroy of Ballymena, who is the bookies’ favourite.
And following his wins in the “East” at Baltray and the “South” at Lahinch last year, the 23-year old Tullamore native can match JB Carr, who won all three titles in 1948, and hold all three trophies at the same time.
While Irish team mates Alex Gleeson and John Ross Galbraith or Co Sligo’s Sean Flanagan are just some of the big threats, the absence of world No 13 Jack Hume is good news for Grehan.
Having finished second to Hume in the South African Amateur Championship last month, shooting a 62 in the second round, Grehan was named yesterday alongside Hume, Gleeson and Galbraith in the 2016 GB&I squad that will compete for the St Andrews Trophy this year.
“The Walker Cup is a big goal of mine and I am putting the work in now so that it will stand to me and I can have a chance of making that team,” Grehan said of his goals for 2016 and ’17. “I’d love to win the West.