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'Hit me like a tonne of bricks': Emotional Rory McIlroy hails home support after one of his 'most fun' rounds despite missed cut at The Open

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

Whatever happens on Sunday afternoon at Royal Portrush, it's going to be very hard to overtake Rory McIlroy's Friday back nine as the iconic moment of the week.

More experienced scribes than I, with a buckle-full of Open Championships under their belt, have ranked the reception given to Rory McIlroy on the 18th as one of the greatest ever heard.

Loud, proud and thrilled to the core.

Every single person who lined that back nine to see McIlroy's five birdies to come within a whisker of making it through to the weekend will remember it forever.

Sport at its glorious, poignant best.

And it wasn't lost on the man himself.

"I will look back on that day with nothing but fond memories and positivity," said an emotional McIlroy.

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"I definitely feel, over the last week has been a real sort of, it's been an eye-opener for me. Sometimes you're so far away and you forget about all the people that are cheering you on back home. And then you come and play in front of them, it definitely hit me like a ton of bricks today.

"As much as I came here at the start of the week saying I wanted to do it for me, you know, by the end of the round there today I was doing it just as much for them as I was for me. I wanted to be here for the weekend.

"Selfishly I wanted to feel that support for two more days."

Rory McIlroy has saluted the Portrush support.
Rory McIlroy has saluted the Portrush support.

The raw emotion will take a while to get over, for McIlroy and for his legions of supporters.

Equalling the course record 65 on the newly-adapted Dunluce Links, it was a special round at a special time.

When he dropped a birdie at the notorious 16th hole, Calamity Corner, every single person believed.

"Today was probably one of the most fun rounds of golf I've ever played," continued Rory, speaking with immense maturity.

"It's strange saying that standing here and having had a bit of success and won this championship before, and just to be battling to make the cut.

"To play in front of those crowds today and to feel that momentum and really dig in, it's going to be a tough one to get over.

"I'm proud of how I handled myself today coming back after what was a very challenging day yesterday. And just full of gratitude towards every single one of the people that followed me to the very end and was willing me on."

McIlroy admitted that he would 'rue' his Thursday finish, that included a sloppy four-putt on that same 16th and a triple bogey seven on the last.

At eight over on Thursday night, his Open bid looked over. When he missed that tiny putt on Calamity, the raw emotion, disappointment and frustration, it seemed, had made even the man himself forget what true greatness he was capable of on Friday afternoon.

"I didn't know how people were going to react on Thursday, how many people were going to be on the first tee (on Friday)," he said.

"Is it just a lost cause? But to have that many people out there following me, supporting me, cheering my name, it meant the world to me.

"I showed the real Rory McIlroy and the golf that I can play. I'm glad, to some degree, I gave them something to cheer about, at least."

Boy did they do that. Perhaps only Offaly's Shane Lowry, should he parade up the 18th in the lead on Sunday afternoon, could command such a reception by the stadium-like grandstands.

"It's a moment I envisaged for the last few years," McIlroy said of his welcome to the final green.

"It just happened two days early. I don't get back home as often as I used to, when I'm playing over in the States or wherever I'm playing in the world. It's hard to feel that support from your home people, I guess."

His teary interview live on Sky Sports just minutes later would only prove to cement his place in the hearts of golf fans, like Andy Wimbledon's emotional interview after losing his first Wimbledon final.

Murray got the chance to win in SW14 and with The Open to return to Portrush in around a decade's time, the local fans will hope Rory takes his opportunity for redemption.

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