Sunday 23 October 2016

Grey skies lift along with hopes of home fans at Irish Open

Sean O'Grady

Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30

Rory McIlroy’s fiancée Erica Stoll. Photo: Mark Condren
Rory McIlroy’s fiancée Erica Stoll. Photo: Mark Condren
Conor Irwin and his son Harry (3) keep an eye Rory McIlroy’s first tee shot. Photo: Mark Condren
Niall Horan at the Irish Open at the K Club, Co Kildare. Photo: Mark Condren

While grey skies and heavy rainfall put a dampener on proceedings in the early morning of Day One of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, the day was a smashing success as over 12,000 golf fans descended on the K-Club in Kildare.

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Several notable names were in attendance for yesterday's proceedings including Niall Horan, Michael Smurfit and Rory McIlroy's fiancée Erica Stoll.

But for Padraig Harrington, it was not the start he had hoped for, despite the support of an enthusiastic home crowd.

"It was tough. It was cold, wet and windy," he admitted. "I certainly had my troubles on a couple of holes."

And, after a string of poor performances in the tournament in recent years, McIlroy was also feeling the pressure to deliver on the opening day.

"[I am] going to have to try as hard as I possibly can and focus as much as I can and try and get the job done this week," he said.

"The Irish Open would be something that would be very special, and I've got off to a great start towards doing that this week.

"Just have to keep playing the way I did today."

His partner Erica was in Straffan to cheer on her boyfriend of two years.

After first meeting at the Ryder Cup Miracle at Medinah in September 2012, they began dating in 2014. And, a year later, he popped the question while the couple were taking a stroll in Paris.

Since then Erica, a PGA employee, is regularly seen cheering on the 27-year-old world number three at tournaments.

As the weather lifted in the afternoon, so did attendees' mood, with Justine O'Sullivan (26) and Lorraine Connolly (28) from Artane, Dublin, enjoying the festival-like atmosphere and watching Rory in action.

"This is our first year. We are used to going to Oxegen, this is like Oxegen but it is a little more civilized," explained Justine.

"There's no music but you can still have a few."

Irish Independent

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