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'He won't end on four': Rory McIlroy tipped for plenty more major wins as emotional reaction to Open exit will earn fans, says Graeme McDowell

Ideal headgear for a soggy Sunday...
Ideal headgear for a soggy Sunday...
A full house enjoyed an enthralling first day at The Open Championship.
Danielle McCarthy, Marie McNeela, Lily McNeela, Ayda-Grace McCarthy (2), Iain McCarthy, Harris McCarthy (5), and Cohen McCarthy (7) enjoy the golf at Royal Portrush. Click through the images to see the best shots from the the third round at The Open. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Robert, George (4), and Kelly McFarland. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Pako Pim, Erin Pim (11), and Lesley Pim. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Chairperson of the ILGU Clodagh Hopkins, Dermot Furey, and President of the ILGU Brigid McCaw. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Mike Liall, Martin Roberts, Roy Pritchard from New Zealand, and Freddie Buxton. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Pako Pim, Erin Pim (11), and Lesley Pim. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Suzanna, Michelle, and Gavin (aged 6) Higgins. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Pacemaker - Belfast - -20/07/2019. Graeme Mc Dowellat The 148th Open at Royal Portrush Third round Saturday Photo Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Douglas and Lewis (aged 4) Band. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Russell and Bernie McKenna, with Darragh, Sophie, and Tadhg McKenna. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: DUP Leader Arlene Foster with Wilma Erskine, secretary and manager of Royal Portrush Golf Club. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Pako Pim, Erin Pim (11), and Lesley Pim. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Derek Maguire, Leanne Courtney, Caroline Courtney, Chris Courtney and Gerry Maguire. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Kevin McGuigan, Kian McGuigan,(aged 5), Ella McGuigan (aged 5), and Fergal McGuigan. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Suzanna, Michelle, and Gavin (aged 6) Higgins. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Suzanna, Michelle, and Gavin (aged 6) Higgins. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th July 2019 Pictured: Russell and Bernie McKenna, with Darragh, Sophie, and Tadhg McKenna. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
A view across the 6th and 8th greens during day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 20, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
Large crowds follow Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell on the 2nd green during day four of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 21, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
Large crowds gather around the 2nd green during day four of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 21, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 20: The scoreboard is pictured during the third round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 20, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
England's Callum Shinkwin tees off the 1st during day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 20, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
A spectator walks the course during day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 20, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 20: A general view of the 18th green during the third round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 20, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The scoreboard is updated during the third round of the British Open golf Championships at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 20: Tyrrell Hatton of England watches his shot from the third tee during the third round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 20, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 20: Tony Finau of the United States walks on the third hole during the third round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 20, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Actor James Nesbitt watches the action during day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 20, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Richard Sellers/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
Spain's Sergio Garcia putts at the 17th hole during the third round of the British Open golf Championships at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 20, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 20: J.B. Holmes of the United States walks onto the first tee during the third round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 20, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
England's Justin Rose tees off the 6th during day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 20, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
England's Lee Westwood tees off the 6th during day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 20, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 20: A general view over the eighth hole during the third round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 20, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

While Rory McIlroy's early exit from The Open Championship will cast its shadow over an otherwise glorious weekend at Royal Portrush, there is reason for optimism for his fans.

That's according to the only remaining Northern Irishman in the field.

Graeme McDowell played another impressive round on Saturday morning and this time sunk the putts to get under par. His three under 68 was enough to push him up to -2 for the week and inside the top 40.

As he takes in the sights and sounds of such a momentous weekend, he took time to consider the alternative reality for compariots Darren Clarke and, of course, Rory McIlroy.

World number three McIlroy missed the cut by a solitary shot despite matching the round of the week on Friday.

McDowell, however, was keen to give the Holywood's man's disappointed supporters a lift, and declared that he has 'no doubt' McIlroy will win more major titles before the end of his career.

When he tees up at his next major, the 2020 Masters, it will be almost six years since McIlroy last took a top title, the 2014 USPGA Championship.

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"He won't finish on four majors. He'll win more, I've no doubt in my mind," said McDowell.

"Five years is a huge gap for a man of his abilities but people grow up at different rates.

"He's met his wife and got married. So much happens in a man's life. Life, for me, gets in the way sometimes.

Rory McIlroy can still reach double figures in major wins, says Graeme McDowell.
Rory McIlroy can still reach double figures in major wins, says Graeme McDowell.

"He's gone through that transition and spent this year trying to get himself more settled. I'm not making excuses for him but he's still a young man in the shape of his life.

"In the mean time there are some great players out here. It's hard to win out here but I'm confident he'll win soon and he'll win several. I think double figures is well within his capabilities."

Even on Saturday morning, McIlroy is the talk of The Open for his swashbuckling Friday 65 and his tearful post-round interviews. Like Andy Murray's public display of emotion after losing his first Wimbledon final, McDowell reckons the reaction win Rory some more fans.

"It was like he was leading the tournament," McDowell said of Friday's finish.

"He was wearing his heart on sleeve and laying it all out there. To watch him break down a little bit felt like it legitimised my tears on Thursday morning.

"I was on the first tee wondering what was wrong with me but when I saw Rory I realised it means a huge amount to us all. I think Rory probably won a lot of fans last night for reacting in a human way.

"It's great when we see a bit of raw emotion in sport sometimes. These guys look like robots sometimes but we're not. We hurt a lot sometimes. It's a tough sport. Golf will test you like no other sport.

"This was also going to be a tough week for him. He's a megastar with the pressure of a nation on his shoulders and he was always going to feel it more than we did. It was a lot to handle.

"It was a special effort from him. He'll get unfairly criticised this week but it's very difficult with all the spotlight."

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