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Major golfers on course as Rory McIlroy shows he's star of the Co Down

Editor's Viewpoint

This year's Irish Open at Royal County Down promises to be an outstanding event by almost every measurement that can be made of this prestigious annual showpiece in the international golfing calendar.

It has a star-studded cast with a number of the world's best golfers led by the top player Rory McIlroy. He will be joined by three other Major championship winners from these shores: Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke - who is also the next Ryder Cup captain - and Padraig Harrington from the Republic.

Added to this list are such famous names as Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Lee Westwood and Miguel Angel Jiminez, as well as some of the best-known celebrities from the world of sport and entertainment in the Pro-Am tournament.

It is the kind of stellar golfing cast that tournament organisers dream about, and added to this is another star - the Royal County Down course itself, which is regarded by the golfing elite as one of the very best in the world.

All of this adds up to a considerable feel-good factor for Northern Ireland, not only in local pride at hosting such a tournament, which helps to keep us on the world sporting map, but also in bringing in some much-need revenue for tourism and business.

A sporting bonus like this does not arise by chance, and it is a result of the work of many people, not least Rory, who as the world's No.1, can attract the kind of support that only a champion can inspire.

Rory has proved his point time and again on the course.

In recent months he has been in awesome form, winning several championships and adding to his immense reputation.

Off the course he is also a champion human being, and he has shown this in his most generous support for the Cancer Fund for Children at Daisy Lodge, near Newcastle.

Rory has already given £1m to this worthy cause, and he has promised to donate any winnings that might come his way this week to the charity and others close to his heart.

He is also giving Daisy Lodge a high public profile, which will add considerably to its fundraising successes. Rory shows remarkable maturity for one so young in his personal qualities when helping seriously ill children.

And he has demonstrated great dignity in dealing with difficult situations in his personal and business life.

Rory McIlroy is a great ambassador for Northern Ireland, and this should also be said of the other two champions, Clarke and McDowell. It is remarkable that such a small country as this has produced no fewer than three great champions in a sport that has such worldwide appeal.

We are renowned as a country that does events well, and this Irish Open, with huge crowds already guaranteed, will be an opportunity to provide a showcase for the Open itself. Irrespective of who triumphs at Newcastle this week, we are all winners. Let's hope the weather plays its part too.

Belfast Telegraph

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