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Unruffled Rory McIlroy clowns around as he prepares for The Open

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Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy throws his putter in the air after playing a shot on the green during a practice day for the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 13, 2011. The 2011 Open Championship begins on Thursday 14th July. See PA Story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy throws his putter in the air after playing a shot on the green during a practice day for the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 13, 2011. The 2011 Open Championship begins on Thursday 14th July. See PA Story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information

Owen Humphreys

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy throwing his putter in the air after playing a shot on the green during a practice day for the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy throwing his putter in the air after playing a shot on the green during a practice day for the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich

Owen Humphreys

Rory McIlroy (L) and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland share a laugh during the final practice round during The Open Championship at Royal St. George's on July 13, 2011 in Sandwich, England

Rory McIlroy (L) and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland share a laugh during the final practice round during The Open Championship at Royal St. George's on July 13, 2011 in Sandwich, England

Stuart Franklin

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland signs autographs for fans during the final practice round during The Open Championship at Royal St. George's on July 13, 2011 in Sandwich, England

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland signs autographs for fans during the final practice round during The Open Championship at Royal St. George's on July 13, 2011 in Sandwich, England

Stuart Franklin

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

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

Stephen Wilson

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye  22nd June 2011US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy back at Hollywood Golf Club, Belfast©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye 22nd June 2011US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy back at Hollywood Golf Club, Belfast©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

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

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

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

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

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club outside Belfast.  Rory's former girlfriend Holly pictured at the club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club outside Belfast. Rory's former girlfriend Holly pictured at the club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club outside Belfast.  Rory's father Gerry pictured at the club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club outside Belfast. Rory's father Gerry pictured at the club

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

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

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland 2011 - 22nd June Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club outside Belfast.  Fans pictured at the club.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland 2011 - 22nd June Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club outside Belfast. Fans pictured at the club.

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

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

Stephen Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy back at Hollywood Golf Club. Rory with his nephew Fergus

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy back at Hollywood Golf Club. Rory with his nephew Fergus

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

©Russell Pritchard / Presseye

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

Peter Macdiarmid

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

US Open Champion 2011 Rory McIlroy returns to Hollywood Golf Club

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

Kelvin Boyes/Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

Kelvin Boyes/Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

US Open winner Rory McIlroy meets the First Minister and deputy First Minister

©Kelvin Boyes / Presseye

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Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy throws his putter in the air after playing a shot on the green during a practice day for the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 13, 2011. The 2011 Open Championship begins on Thursday 14th July. See PA Story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information

The Open Championship tees off today with golf superstar Rory McIlroy the firm favourite to win.

The Holywood star was in fine form yesterday during a practice round, acting the clown by juggling his clubs, hiding behind a pin flag and taking the time to sign hundreds of autographs.

Portrush golfer Graeme Mc Dowell said everyone is very proud of what Rory has accomplished and he doesn't mind the focus of attention at Sandwich being on his friend.

McIlroy has not played competitively since his stunning eight-shot victory in the US Open at Congressional last month.

He has been enjoying a few weeks off, attending events including Wimbledon and catching up with family and his girlfriend Holly Sweeney.

The 22-year-old was on the golf course at 5.45am on Tuesday to put in a practice round.

"First and foremost, I'm very happy to be back at an Open," McIlroy said.

"The first 10 days after winning the US Open it was a bit hectic trying to see everyone and going here, there and everywhere, but the last 10 days has been good.

"I've got back into my routine, been practising a lot. I've got to forget about what happened three weeks ago and just come here and try to win another tournament."

Meanwhile, four years after effectively ruling it out, golf chiefs have vowed to re-examine the possibility of Northern Ireland staging the Open. The US Open victories of Graeme McDowell and McIlroy have prompted calls for the Open to return for the first time since Max Faulkner triumphed at Royal Portrush in 1951.

And while Peter Dawson, chief executive of organisers the Royal and Ancient stressed such a move was not "in any way imminent", he did concede the possibility would be revisited.

Belfast Telegraph


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