"You want to go out and play like that because I shouldn't have a care in the world".
McIlroy has won two PGA Tour events this season alone and 21 times worldwide outside of the majors, but has not won one since 2014 and saw his only realistic chance to end his drought this season fizzle out in the final round of the US Open.
McIlroy is one of his country's most famous exports and he recognises that his exploits, alongside those of Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and the Republic of Ireland's Padraig Harrington, have played a role in bringing The Open to Portrush for the first time since 1951. "It still just feels like Portrush to me".
"I want to enjoy the experience and take it in as well, not have my blinkers on the whole time, look to the right of me, look to the left of me, see all these fans, see all these people who have come out to support me and if I'm able to play some good golf that I have been doing all year and give myself a chance".
"And I'd say, 'Well, I'd go out and not have a care in the world'". I played the new holes in 2017 and played 18 holes in October.
But it is inevitable that McIlroy more than anyone will have the upcoming Open championship at the back of his mind with the major returning to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years.
"I've heard a lot about it and that there's a lot more blind shots than maybe a couple courses I've played in the past, so I'll probably try to play each (practice) day".
"I expected it to feel different than it did".
Thomas loves to play links golf - "if I could only play one course the rest of my life it'd probably be a links course over here because it can change so much" - but admits he hasn't quite managed to translate that into results.
He said: "As much as the weeks before set you up for the week after, I'm playing with this event with two eyes firmly focused on the Scottish Open. I'd rather play to win". "That's the best way to prepare for next week, to feel the heat of competition".
Bidding to land a first home win since Colin Montgomerie did the trick at Loch Lomond in 1999, 15 Scots are in the field, with an added incentive for the likes of Richie Ramsay, Stephen Gallacher, David Law and Grant Forrest coming in the shape of three Open Championship spots on offer for the leading players not already exempt if they can finish in the top 10 on Sunday evening. "It's a big event".
The Portrush Sons of Ulster has organised a concert for six flute bands on the Saturday evening of the Open, a matter the R&A claimed to the Guardian it had "no position" on.
"I'm here fully focused on this event". So it deserves to stand-alone and not just be this tournament that's attached on to the week after.