US OPEN champion Rory McIlroy teed off on home soil today for the very first time since his sensational Congressional victory last month.
The 22-year-old hit his first competitive ball in Ireland at the crack of dawn at the Irish Open in Killarney, Co Kerry.
Despite heading to the first tee-box before most people were even awake, a crowd of about 200 fans were there to watch him drive off on a dull morning.
Rory's victory in America last month, and Darren Clarke's sensational win at the British Open a fortnight ago, have virtually ensured the future of the Irish Open, which was in deep trouble after its major sponsor pulled out last winter.
However, the success of our golfers in an unprecedented month in the history of golf, has safeguarded the competition for the future.
Along with Rory and Darren, Padraig Harrington (two British Opens and one USPGA) and Graeme McDowell (US Open), were also teeing off. To put into perspective, Ireland's champion quartet have won five of the last 13 Majors since Harrington's back-to-back triumphs in 2008.
Last year's Irish Open was won by English man Ross Fisher, who had the nerve to hold off a strong challenge from Harrington himself, who will be hoping to upstage his fellow Irishmen and regain his winning form this week.