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The Open: Thousands of golf fans relish third day at Royal Portrush

Home favourites Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke missed the halfway cut.

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)

Thousands of excited golf fans swarmed over Portrush’s sun-drenched dunes as stars of the world game battled it out on the third day of the Open’s return to Northern Ireland.

Home favourites Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke may have missed the halfway cut but that only meant more support for Portrush-born Graeme McDowell and Irish star Shane Lowry on Saturday, as huge crowds cheered them on.

McDowell was not the only local favourite on the course.

Long-time Royal Portrush’s club pro Gary McNeill was asked to tee it up in the first group of the day, as the odd number of players meant one competitor was short of a playing partner.

“I might need a lie down after all that,” he said after a round that included holing a monster putt on the 17th green.

A half dozen fans from England were particularly disappointed Tiger Woods failed to make the cut, given they had bought full-length furry Tiger suits for the day’s play.

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Spectators walk round in tiger costumes during day three of the Open (Niall Carson/PA)

They donned them regardless, prowling through the dunes like a hunting pack.

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Among the high profile spectators lining the fairways was Irish rugby captain Rory Best and scrum half Conor Murray.

One father was so keen to secure a vantage point to see McDowell coming down the 18th that he abandoned his pram in a nearby bush in the scramble to get a spot.

Fortunately his child had already been taken out before he found the unconventional parking place.

While the vast majority of the home fans were cheering on McDowell, Belfast woman Sara Campbell was focused on his playing partner Bubba Watson.

“I would have loved to have seen Bubba up closer,” she said.

“I have followed Bubba for years and wished one of my grandchildren had been called Bubba but nobody would call them Bubba.”

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Bubba Watson tees off the 1st during day three of the Open (David Davies/PA)

Fathers and sons Roy and Frazer Wallace and Stephen and Rory Stewart, all from Lisburn, had McDowell’s face printed on their T-shirts.

Their day was made in an instant when the man himself stopped to pose for a selfie with his quartet of super-fans after signing his card.

For the all the tens of thousands delighted to secure a ticket for the Open’s famous return, there were some who were not quite so fortunate.

Two young men from Co Meath apparently arrived at the gates with the tickets their father bought them in a sealed envelope.

But when they opened their present they realised the stubs were for the Irish Open, which was staged at Lahinch in Co Clare earlier this month.

A number of others were left regretting not reading the Open website more closely in the early rush to secure tickets last summer.

People are very friendly, the golf's been great and very challenging Jason Forrest

One Belfast man went to print out tickets for him and his wife earlier this week only to discover that 12 months ago he had actually bought last-minute tickets for last year’s Open at Carnoustie, rather than the 2019 version on his doorstep.

Out on the course, dressed in a stars and stripes jacket, tie and shorts, Jason Forrest from Atlanta, Georgia, said he was more used to the manicured greenery of Augusta National rather than the rolling dunes of an Irish links course.

“We try to go to the major golf championships, we go to Augusta frequently and this is a really special time to be in Northern Ireland,” he said. “People are very friendly, the golf’s been great and very challenging.”

Compatriot Nick Cholewka, from New York city, travelled to Portrush to toast a friend’s retirement.

“The big names are gone but I’m looking out for Dustin Johnson whose my favourite,” he said

“It’s really unfortunate Rory’s gone and Tiger and Phil (Mickelson) aren’t making it today.”

A number of the region’s politicians were at Portrush on Saturday to catch some of the action.

Among them was Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill.

“It was absolutely amazing,” she said.

“The sun was shining and I’m really impressed with the scale of the event.”

Mrs O’Neill said the wheels were already in motion to secure the return of the tournament.

“I’m speaking to some of the organisers, there is certainly a conversation under way about it returning – we look forward to that,” she said.

Declan Faulkner, from Ballygawley, Co Tyrone, was at Portrush seven years ago when the course hosted the Irish Open.

“This is a different level, it’s just massive – it’s a privilege to be here.”

“For the Open to be here is just fantastic.”

Linda Robb, from Cullybackey, Co Antrim, said she has watched in awe over the last few weeks as the Open infrastructure was built up.

“It’s just nice to be part of something and to see Northern Ireland is actually capable of putting on an event on such a scale,” she said.

“It does actually make you feel proud that you come from this area. It would be amazing if it came back or something similar – it would be great if this was the start of more things to come now.”

Peter Kirk from Bangor conceded he was not a golf fan.

“I don’t know who’s playing, I don’t particularly care who’s playing but it’s a lovely walk,” he said.

“I quite like the 5th because there’s nice views, so we sat there.

“I am supporting my wife who’s a golfer.”

Barbara Teague, from Portglenone in Co Antrim, walked the fairways with her friends.

“It’s been fantastic socially catching up with buddies,” she said.

“Watching Rory last night it was very disappointing. It was actually heart-breaking to hear him on the TV. Hopefully Shane Lowry can do it.”

She said there was an unexpected advantage of being a female golf fan at the event.

“It’s great, there are no queues for the ladies toilets because it’s populated by the male domain.”

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