Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

McIlroy targets more majors

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy set his sights on more major glory as he made an emotional return to the golf club where his journey to sporting stardom began.

The 22-year-old record-breaking US Open winner said it was fantastic to be among old friends again as he arrived at Holywood Golf Club in County Down with his trophy tucked tightly under his arm. McIlroy landed back in Northern Ireland on Wednesday night after what he said had been a whirlwind few days following his triumph at Congressional.

"It's fantastic to be back here to see all my friends, my family," he said. "I can't thank my parents enough for what they've done for me and winning the US Open is only a tiny little bit of my appreciation for what they've done, so hopefully there's more trophies for them in the future and more things for us to share and celebrate."

The homecoming event in Holywood came a year after similar euphoric scenes in Portrush, 60 miles up the road, when McIlroy's compatriot and close friend Graeme McDowell won the same tournament.

"Graeme inspired me and gave me a lot of belief that I could do the same thing," McIlroy added. "If Graeme hadn't won last year I don't know if I would be standing here talking to you as a major champion."

After spending two hours inside the clubhouse, where the walls are covered with pictures of his triumphs, McIlroy emerged onto the balcony to a rapturous welcome from fans waiting below. He thanked them all for their support over the 15 years he had been a member, even, he joked, when he was a seven-year-old annoying the club professional.

The crowd then broke into a spontaneous verse of "Stand up for the Ulsterman" - a take on the popular chant of Ulster Rugby, McIlroy's favourite team. At that point the champion's friends popped the champagne corks and drenched him in bubbly, leaving just a little for the club's most famous member to savour.

He then walked outside to pose with the famous trophy on the greens he once trod from dawn to dusk as a boy.

McIlroy said he owed the fans one after failing in the last round of the US Masters at Augusta in April, despite going into the final round with a four-stroke lead.

"The support's been fantastic," he said. "Even before this tournament, at Augusta I knew how much everyone wanted me to win that. It felt like this win was not just for myself, it was for everyone who supported me and all I can say is thank you to everyone who believed in me after what happened at Augusta."