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After US victory, Rory McIlroy gears up for The Open

By Frank Brownlow

Rory McIlroy achieved a lifetime ambition when he won the US Open last week — now he aims to realise a dream.

The 22-year-old had always set his sights on winning one of the four Majors and did that in stunning fashion last week with his amazing victory at Congressional.

Incredibly, that made it back-to-back US Opens for Northern Ireland following Graeme McDowell’s triumph last year.

McIlroy’s next assignment is The Open in three weeks time at Sandwich — and that’s the tournament the Holywood star has been dreaming about since he was a little kid taking the fairways of his local club by storm.

As a youngster, he used to sign his scorecard ‘Rory McIlroy, Open Champion.’

The only Ulsterman to win The Open is Fred Daly, who lifted the famous Claret Jug way back in 1947.

“There are four majors and they are all obviously very prestigious,” said McIlroy.

“But with the Open being my ‘home’ Major, it would be extra special to win it.

“I feel pretty good about the Open,” explained McIlroy just three days after his US Open success, which was particularly poignant given his meltdown at the Masters in April, when he was virtually being measured up for the coveted Green Jacket.

“I’m going to prepare like I do for any other major. I will go to the venue the week before and play a few practice rounds.

“I will still be putting in plenty of practice ahead of The Open, doing all the hard work before the tournament.

“I want to give myself every chance to win the last two Majors of the season,” stated McIlroy, with an eye on the US PGA in August.

“I’ve always been a dreamer and I’ve always had very high hopes and expectations.

“This is all I’ve wanted to do from a very early age — to live my dream of being a professional golfer.

“To win a Major Championship is incredible.”

And with ‘wee Mac’ joining ‘G-Mac’ as a Major champion, the calls have never been louder for The Open to come to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, when it was played at Royal Portrush.

McIlroy is adamant that, given time, the infrastructure could be put in place to enable Ulster to host one of the world’s great sporting events.

“Northern Ireland has the courses to host The Open — two world class courses in Royal Portrush and Royal County Down.

“And even if Northern Ireland did get The Open Championship it would be at least 10 years down the line before it actually came here so there would be enough time to get the infrastructure in place to host an event like that,” said McIlroy, referring to the fact the Open venue is decided years in advance.

“So there would definitely be time to get everything in place.

“I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t host it — it would be a huge thing for the country,” he added.

McIlroy is relishing his time off ahead of The Open and intends to take the opportunity to get over to Wimbledon to see Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray in action.

“I’ve got to know Rafa quite well over the last year or so and we keep in touch,” added McIlroy.

“He’s my sporting hero and to hear him say how I was an inspiration — to hopefully help him go and win another Wimbledon title — is a big thing for me.

“I listened to Andy Murray say that I have inspired him to go and get his first Grand Slam.

“If they meet, I would have split loyalties — maybe 60 per cent for Rafa and 40 per cent for Andy!” he laughed.

“But to hear these other sports stars talking about me like that is a very nice compliment,” said McIlroy, who revealed he has an invitation to the Royal Box at Wimbledon on Tuesday.

“It will be great to see how Rafa and Andy do and hopefully I will make it back over for the semi-finals and final as well,” he added.

But wherever he goes and whatever superstars he rubs shoulders with, you just know it won’t change this unassuming genius.

“It’s great to be back at the club where I spent just about every day of the first 20 years of my life,” he said yesterday.

“Hopefully this is not the last Major I come back here with.”

Little danger of that.

Belfast Telegraph

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