McIlroy will draw on “fond memories” of his performance in the 2007 Open at the same venue, when he fired the only bogey-free round on the first day and went on to win the Silver Medal as leading amateur.
The 29-year-old has posted top-five finishes in each of the last two years after winning on his previous appearance at Hoylake in 2014, although he was unable to defend his title at St Andrews the following year due to injury.
McIlroy lifted his fourth major title at the 2014 PGA Championship, but he has not added to that tally since and has vowed to remain patient and not put undue pressure on himself to pick up No 5.
He has looked back to his performance at Carnoustie in 2007 for inspiration, and he believes a more carefree attitude could serve him well this week as he hopes to be the player returning the Claret Jug to the R&A 12 months from now, on home soil in Northern Ireland.
“Obviously, I’ve had a decent career up until this point, and I’ve got a lot of time left to add to my major tally,” said McIlroy at his pre-tournament press conference. “It’s hard to win any week on Tour, let alone the four big ones that we get a year.
“I was on a nice run there from 2011 to 2014. I haven’t won one since, but I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened, but I’ll give it a good go this week.
“And if I were to head to Portrush with a Claret Jug in my possession, I’d obviously be very happy and be very proud to be the defending champion at a golf course that I know very well and playing in front of home fans. If it all worked out like that this week, I’d be one very happy man heading out of here.”
Asked to reflect on his first Open at Carnoustie, McIlroy hinted that he wanted to emulate the attitude and approach he adopted that week in the hope it will make a difference 11 years on.
“I’ve alluded to the fact that I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he added. “It was my first Open Championship and I was just trying to soak everything in, and I was just so grateful to be here.
“If you’re happy in what you’re doing and you’re just happy to be here, I feel like a golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself.
“I think the pressure that’s maybe put on the top guys to perform at such a high level every week, that starts to weigh on you a little bit. But I look back at those pictures, and the more I can be like that kid, the better.
“I have lots of great memories, it’s great to be back and it doesn’t seem like 11 years ago that The Open was here last. Hopefully I can create some more good memories this week.
“I obviously remember that week very fondly for different reasons. I hadn’t even turned pro yet and didn’t know what to expect or the journey that I was about to embark on.
“So to be back and be in a different position, it feels good, and to be talked about as one of the guys that could win, and to already have a Claret Jug is very nice, but obviously I want to add to my collection.”