Belfast Telegraph

Let's all root for local hero Rory McIlroy

Main man: Rory McIlroy is essential to Irish Open success
Main man: Rory McIlroy is essential to Irish Open success

Editor's Viewpoint

The kickabout that left Rory McIlroy with a badly injured ankle could turn out to be one of the most expensive fun football games the world has ever seen. If the golfing superstar fails to recover in time to take part in the final two Majors of the season, it would cost him a potential loss of £2m in prize money, but even more in lost endorsements.

But mind-blowing as those figures seem to us ordinary people, their loss would not be as keenly felt by Rory - after all, he has one of the biggest sponsorships in the sport from Nike - as his failure to confront the immensely talented new kid on the block Jordan Speith, who has already won the first two Majors this season.

All sport needs a great rivalry at the very top - think of Federer, Djokovic and Murray at Wimbledon - to keep the fans in a constant state of excitement. Rory and Jordan are the exciting superstars of golf and undoubtedly both can spur each other to even greater heights. So if Rory fails to get on the first tee at the forthcoming Majors the game will be diminished.

It will also be a bitter blow to local fans and Northern Ireland as a whole. Yes, golf may only be sport, but the fact that this tiny province has produced three winners of Majors in recent years has gained us enormous positive publicity.

The local economy could benefit by as much as £50m within five years from golf tourism, according to Tourism NI, as visitors flock here to play the courses where our champions honed their brilliance. Rory is not only the poster boy for the sport, but also an icon of how Northern Ireland has progressed post-Troubles. He projects a feel-good factor and his tremendous work for charity earns him deserved kudos throughout the island.

Last year his charitable foundation donated £1m for Daisy Lodge in Newcastle, Co Down, a unique facility for young people with cancer where they and their families can enjoy therapeutic short stays at the most stressful time in their lives.

Perhaps we can now try and do something positive for Rory. This newspaper has teamed up with mentalist David Meade in an effort to speed up Rory's recovery by using the power of positive thinking. It is easy to scoff at this experiment, but elite sports stars know the value of harnessing self-belief.

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At the very least it shows our global hero that we are all rooting for him. What's to lose?

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