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Open shows how far Northern Ireland has come since Troubles, insists Rory McIlroy

PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 18: Darren Clarke of the Northern Ireland celebrates his birdie on the first green during the first round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 18, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 18: Darren Clarke of the Northern Ireland celebrates his birdie on the first green during the first round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 18, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Some say at the end of a rainbow, there's a pot of gold. In reality, it's Darren Clarke.
A scoreboard showing Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy +4 during day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 18, 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.
Rory McIlroy made a quadruple bogey eight on his first hole.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy walks down the fairway from the first hole during the first round of the British Open golf Championships at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 18, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Who's proud of Our Wee Country right now?
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke during day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 18, 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.
Republic of Ireland's James Sugrue tees off the 1st during day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 18, 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.
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke celebrates his birdies on the 1st during day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 18, 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 18: Darren Clarke of the Northern Ireland lines up a putt on the second green during the first round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 18, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 18: Amateur James Sugrue of Northern Ireland prepares to play a shot on the first hole during the first round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 18, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 18: Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland plays the opening tee shot off the first tee during the first round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 18, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 18: Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland plays the opening tee shot off the first tee during the first round of the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 18, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
A spectator tries to adjust their umbrella during preview day four of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club (Richard Sellers/PA)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 17: Tommy Fleetwood of England shields himself from the rain during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 17, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 17: Bryson DeChambeau of the United States plays a shot during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 17, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Spectators shelter from the rain during preview day four of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club (David Davies/PA)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 17: Xander Schauffele of the United States plays a shot during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 17, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 17: Phil Mickelson of the United States looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 17, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 17: Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 17, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy practices during the 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 16, 2019. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEGLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 16: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 16, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy walks through the walkway during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy tees off the 1st during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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 16: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark walk during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 16, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 16: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 16, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Penny for your thoughts, Rory?
Tiger Woods on the 18th green during preview day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 14, 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.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the practice ground during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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.
USA's Brooks Koepka (right) with caddy Ricky Elliott during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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.
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Brooks Koepka of the United States and caddie Ricky Elliott speak during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Portrush-born caddie Ricky Elliott is showing his man Brooks Koepka round his home town this week.
Portrush-born caddie Ricky Elliott is showing his man Brooks Koepka round his home town this week.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the practice ground during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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.
USA's Tiger Woods during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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.
USA's Tiger Woods on the 17th during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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.
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell walks along the fairway at the first hole during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 16, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Spain's Jon Rahm (L) and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell walk along the fairway at the first hole during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 16, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell tees off from the first hole during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 16, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEPAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland signs autographs during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland signs autographs during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
A view of USA's Tiger Woods club bag during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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.
USA's Tiger Woods on the 16th green during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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.
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Corey Conners of Canada looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of the R&A, holds the the Claret Jug prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods tees off the 2nd during preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club.
Tiger Woods tees off on the 6th during preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 15, 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.
Tiger Woods on the 18th green during preview day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 14, 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.
Tiger Woods on the 8th Green during preview day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 14, 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.
US golfer Tiger Woods plays onto the 18th green during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 15, 2019. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
US golfer Tiger Woods tess off on the 17th green during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 15, 2019. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
US golfer Tiger Woods practices at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 15, 2019. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
Tiger Woods putts on the 5th during preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 15, 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.
US golfer Tiger Woods tees off from the 16th hole during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 15, 2019. (Photo by Andy Buchanan / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
Italy's Francesco Molinari on the 2nd during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 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.
Crowds take photos of Tiger Woods on the 9th Tee during preview day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 14, 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.
England's Tommy Fleetwood during a press conference during preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 15, 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.
England's Tommy Fleetwood during a press conference during preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 15, 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.
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke during a press conference during preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 15, 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.
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke during a press conference during preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 15, 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.
Italy's Francesco Molinari during the press conference on preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 15, 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.
Tiger Woods on the 17th tee during preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 15, 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.
Spain's Sergio Garcia signs autographs during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 19, 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.
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke during a press conference during preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 15, 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 15: Jim Furyk of the United States plays a shot during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Tommy Fleetwood of England looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Tiger Woods of the United States plays a shot during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Tommy Fleetwood of England looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Tony Finau of the United States looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Darren Clarke of the Northern Ireland speaks to the media during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Jordan Spieth of the United States "shotguns" a can of water as caddie Michael Greller looks on during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
A general view of 18th Green in front of the grandstand and the town of Portrush during preview day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 14, 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.
Rickie Fowler on the 18th green during preview day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 14, 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.
Jason Day signs autographs during preview day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 14, 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.
Louis Oosthuizen on the 18th green during preview day one of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday July 14, 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.
Rickie Fowler (left) and Tiger Woods on the 1st green during preview day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club.
Spectators watch play during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 14, 2019. (Photo by Andy Buchanan / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
England's Tommy Fleetwood checks his course notes during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 14, 2019. (Photo by Andy Buchanan / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
England's Tommy Fleetwood watches his shot during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 14, 2019. (Photo by Andy Buchanan / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
A view looking out over the course in the afternoon sunshine during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club in Northern Ireland on July 14, 2019. (Photo by Andy Buchanan / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USEANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Rory McIlroy has spoken of his pride in the transformation of Northern Ireland as the biggest sporting event ever staged here tees off.

Ahead of The Open Championship beginning at Royal Portrush today, McIlroy said the tournament's return after more than half a century was a powerful sign that society has moved into a new era.

A star-studded guest list on the north coast includes the likes of 15-time Major winner Tiger Woods, US Ryder Cup star Phil Mickelson and Irish Open champion Jon Rahm.

All will be aiming to lift the famous Claret Jug by winning the year's final Major.

It has been a long wait for Portrush, which earned the right to host the tournament after successfully staging the 2012 Irish Open.

After years of planning, the event finally got under way just after 6.30am this morning when Darren Clarke, winner of the 2011 Open, hit the first tee shot.

It has already been confirmed as the best attended Open of all time outside of St Andrews, with 237,750 spectators set to pass through the gates of Royal Portrush over the next four days.

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Millions more are set to watch it on television around the world, with images of Northern Ireland's picturesque coastline providing a spectacular backdrop.

The town itself has been revamped, with the train station given a makeover, streets relaid and houses painted in anticipation of the event, which organisers say will be a phenomenal advert for the country.

And speaking on the eve of the tournament yesterday, McIlroy said it was a chance for Northern Ireland to shine.

Crowds watch as Rory tees off at the second during yesterday’s practice round at The Open Championship at Royal Portrush
Crowds watch as Rory tees off at the second during yesterday’s practice round at The Open Championship at Royal Portrush
A spectator tries to adjust their umbrella during yesterday’s windy practice round at The Open at Royal Portrush
England's Tommy Fleetwood
Darren Clarke
Graeme McDowell

The 30-year-old, from Holywood in Co Down, will carry the hopes of fans dreaming of a local winner.

He said: "I think no matter what happens this week, if I win or whoever else wins, having The Open back in this country is a massive thing for golf. And I think as well it will be a massive thing for the country.

"Sport has an unbelievable ability to bring people together. We all know that this country sometimes needs that. This has the ability to do that.

"Talking of legacy, that could be the biggest impact this tournament has outside of sport, outside of everything else - the fact that people are coming here to enjoy it and have a good time and sort of forget everything else that sort of goes on."

This is the first time The Open has been at Royal Portrush since 1951, when Max Faulkner won around the Dunluce links.

In the years since, much has changed.

The Troubles that engulfed Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, raging for three decades, made many assume the tournament would never again cross the Irish Sea.

But the onset of peace has seen the region play host to major events, such as the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards and the opening stages of the 2014 Giro d'Italia.

For McIlroy, to be staging the 148th Open is another major milestone, and an indication that Northern Ireland is "so far" from the past.

He added: "I think it just means that people have moved on. It's a different time, it's a very prosperous place.

"I'm very fortunate that I grew up just outside Belfast and I never saw anything, I was oblivious to it.

"I remember I watched a movie a couple of years ago, it was just basically called '71'. It's about a British soldier who gets stationed at the Palace Barracks in Holywood, which is literally 500 yards from where I grew up and it basically follows him on a night of the Troubles and all that. And I remember asking my mum and dad, is this actually what happened?

"It's amazing to think 40 years on it's such a great place, no one cares who they are, where they're from, what background they're from, but you can have a great life and it doesn't matter what side of the street you come from.

"That's what I was talking about, the legacy of this tournament, to be able to have this tournament here again, I think it speaks volumes of where the country and where the people that live here are now.

"We're so far past that and that's a wonderful thing."

As for the tournament itself, McIlroy is right up there among the favourites, while another Northern Irishman is likely to be in the hunt too, although for Ricky Elliott, from Portrush, it will be as a caddie for world number one Brooks Koepka.

But McIlroy, who is the world number three, is just aiming to enjoy an event that he admitted he never even dreamed he would be a part of. The golf can take care of itself.

"One of my sort of mantras this week is look around and smell the roses. This is a wonderful thing for this country and golf in general, and to be quite a big part of it is an honour and a privilege," he added.

"I want to keep reminding myself of that, that this is bigger than me, right? This is bigger than me."

John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism NI, said bringing the Open to Northern Ireland would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

"We're 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, if someone had said in 1999 that in 20 years' time you're going to have the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, I don't think anyone would have believed that," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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