Crowds watch Rory practice in Portrush
Thousands of golf fans descended on the North Coast to watch local hero Rory McIlroy play a practice round ahead of the Irish Open.
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
The world number two was just one of the stars who turned out at Royal Portrush on Tuesday to begin their preparations for the tournament later this week.
McIlroy went out early with his good friend and West of Ireland champion, Harry Diamond, alongside his coach, Michael Bannon.
He may have missed the last four of five cuts, including the chance to defend his US Open crown, but the Holywood man said he is happy with his game at the moment.
"The course was good, it's nice to be back," he told UTV.
"It was a little cold but it was nice, the condition of the course was great and just hopefully the weather stays the way it is, it'll be a good week.
"I'd like to see the sun shine a little bit, I think all the crowds that will come out this week deserve that and the Irish Open deserves it.
"It would be great to see a week where it was good weather but it looks like it's not going to be like that so you just have to accept that and get on with it!"
It was pretty quiet earlier on, you know, but the crowds started to build around the back now and it was a nice atmosphere.
McIlroy spent at least 15 minutes signing autographs for plenty of eager fans after completing his round, and was watched by Open champion Darren Clarke's sons.
Meanwhile PGA Champion, Keegan Bradley was full of praise for the Co Antrim course, as the competition returns to NI for the first time since 1953.
"I'm really enjoying it," Keegan told UTV.
"I wish I had more time but it's been really fun so far. I love it. This is like a course I have never played before so I look forward to learning it and playing well on the weekend."
And another one of the week's main contenders, three time major winner Padraig Harrington, said it was an "inspired" decision to hold the event on the North Coast.
"I think they are exceeded all expectations so far the atmosphere and crowds that are turning out," said Harrington.
"I'm absolutely thrilled I am here. Thrilled I was coming to Portrush and that it was coming to Northern Ireland. It seems like it was an inspired decision and obviously will lead to more Irish Opens and other things down the road."
Excitement is continuing to build and it is expected crowds will only get bigger and bigger before the tournament starts on Thursday.