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'Burst out crying': Why Rory McIlroy's family ties to Royal Portrush could make for an emotional finish at The Open

Rory McIlroy with his dad Gerry
Rory McIlroy with his dad Gerry

By Gareth Hannna

Rory and Gerry McIlroy's loving relationship with Royal Portrush could complete an emotional full circle this weekend.

The world number three has arrived for what he has long referred to as the most significant tournament of his entire career: The Open Championship on Ireland's north coast.

Everything's in place at the historic, 'wonderful' - to use Tiger's adjective - links and it's only now, for the first time in his life, that Rory is envisaging the Sunday afternoon reality that he's aiming to earn.

Two decades ago, it was all quite different.

There wasn't even a whisper of the Open coming back to Portrush.

The Dunluce Links' highlight then was the North of Ireland Amateur Championship, to which a young Rory tagged along to watch Gerry in action.

"I remember coming and watching my dad play here," he told The Cut podcast.

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"There was a little chipping green by the car-park. I'd maybe see my dad play two or three holes but otherwise I'd spend all my day there. Ever since I was seven or eight until now I've had fond memories of Portrush and I've had great times here.

"Hopefully the Open will be another one of those great memories."

GOLF Ryd (947).jpg
Rory McIlroy's parents Gerry McIlroy (left) and Rosie McDonald during the Fourballs match on day one of the Ryder Cup last year.

Very close to boyhood Rory's well-used practice green is the putting surface that was, back then, the 16th.

Of course, due to the course changes, it's now surrounded by grandstands and will take centre stage come Sunday afternoon as the Open Championship's 18th green.

So it's right there on that same spot that Rory could be crowned Champion Golfer of the Year, this time Gerry the one watching on as Rory holes out.

"I never had a putt on the putting green at Holywood Golf Club to win the Open at Royal Portrush," smiled Rory, again harking back to his days as a kid, pretending every practice putt was career-defining, "it was always to win at St Andrews or Muirfield or wherever."

Now he, and every other Northern Irish golfer, can dream.

"I've tried to put it out of my thoughts but now that you're here and you see it come to fruition, it's hard not to think about walking up here and holing a putt at Royal Portrush to win the Open," he smiled.

"Winning the Open anywhere is special but being from here and with my memories of the course it would probably mean a little bit more."

In that backdrop, it's little wonder, really, that Rory predicts a flood of emotion should he manage to pull off his second Open Championship win.

"I don't get that emotional with golf," he mused. "I can separate the emotion from it and the logic and try to shoot good scores. But if it were happen, I don't know what the emotions would be. It would definitely take a lot for me not to burst out crying."

Likely, Gerry would be in tears too.

That little boy that watched his dad at the North could be crowned Open Champion at the very same course.

Tell me that's not a tear-jerker.

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