Tuesday 22 August 2017

Loyal McIlroyalists get behind below-par Rory

Rory McIlroy looks dejected on the 18th green at the end of the first round Picture: Reuters/Paul Childs
Rory McIlroy looks dejected on the 18th green at the end of the first round Picture: Reuters/Paul Childs

Ivan Little

You could scarcely have swung a cat never mind a golf club at the first tee at Portstewart as Rory McIlroy started his Dubai Duty Free Irish Open campaign in earnest.

Hundreds of fans jostled for a view as the Holywood hero teed off in his bid to retain the open title he won last year at the K Club.

Gerry McIlroy, Rory’s father, and actor James Nesbitt watch the first round. Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs
Gerry McIlroy, Rory’s father, and actor James Nesbitt watch the first round. Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs

Nearly five hours later, the first day of the tournament his foundation is hosting ended in disappointment for McIlroy and his supporters as he became one of the few golfers who didn't end the day below par.

Even so, as he shot his 11th par in a row at the 18th, the now quieter but ever-loyal McIlroyalists still applauded their idol and he responded with a rueful smile and an exhalation of breath.

Colin and Amanda Jeffrey, who had travelled from Co Derry, were attending their third open in Northern Ireland.

"I've heard people saying Rory has lost his focus," said Mr Jeffrey.

Below, the Steen family – Jane, Max, Peter and Amy. Photo: Mark Jamieson
Below, the Steen family – Jane, Max, Peter and Amy. Photo: Mark Jamieson

"But to me he's still a star.

Not yesterday he didn't. And at the sixth hole, a Sky commentator went so far as to say that one of his shots was the worst he had ever seen him play.

The new Mrs McIlroy, Erica Stoll, at The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Photo: Justin Kernoghan
The new Mrs McIlroy, Erica Stoll, at The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Photo: Justin Kernoghan

But spirits were still high. Teenage programme seller Rebecca Davey, from Castlerock, said the buzz was infectious, adding: "It's my first open and the atmosphere has been electric."

Even 11-year-old Portstewart boy Max Steen was excited and he's just sampled one of the greatest occasions in world sport - in New Zealand.

Max returned on Tuesday night from a tour with the Ulster under-11s rugby team and he also saw the British and Irish Lions beating the All Blacks last Saturday when he was a flag-bearer.

His sister Amy (14) took delight in snapping selfies with a gaggle of golf stars. Rory eluded her, however.

"A security man stepped in to stop me," she said.

Irish Independent

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