Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Rory McIlroy: ‘If I could thrill like George Best, I’d be happy’

US Open champion Rory McIlroy returns home to Holywood Golf Club, Co. Down

Rory McIlroy joined the list of Ulster’s sporting greats when he won the US Open at the weekend.

But don’t expect this modest 22-year-old to agree with that assessment.

For such a small country Northern Ireland has produced a stunning line-up of world-class sporting talent over the years.

George Best, Barry McGuigan, Dame Mary Peters, Alex Higgins, Dennis Taylor, Joey Dunlop, Willie John McBride and Jack Kyle, to name but a few, all took the sporting world by storm.

And it was appropriate that McIlroy touched down on local soil for the first time since his US Open triumph at George Best City Airport.

Many would say Best was the greatest sports star ever to come from these shores.

And that’s something young McIlroy acknowledged.

“If I’m ever as good on a golf course as George Best was on a football pitch then I will be very happy,” said McIlroy. “He was an absolute hero back in the 60s and 70s.”

Best was to become renowned for his off-field antics but McIlroy has is feet very much on the ground with his focus on winning more tournaments.

“I know there will be a lot of expectation, a lot of pressure on me, but hopefully I’m well enough equipped to deal with that,” he said, before revealing that his coach Michael Bannon had given him sound advice following his US Open win, one that could earn him almost £100m.

“It was a great achievement but as Michael said to me, ‘take one tournament at a time and see where we go’.”