Rory McIlroy brings it all back home minus the famous Claret Jug

Open winner apologies at Stormont after having to leave the famous trophy at home

British Open winner Rory McIlroy is greeted by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont Castle. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

British Open winner Rory McIlroy is greeted by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont Castle. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 01:00

British Open champion Rory McIlroy turned up to Stormont yesterday and stood between the North’s two leaders like a prize student between favourite uncles.

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness could hardly be more proud given the manner in which McIlroy has become probably the North’s most famous son.

The three took a stroll in the beautifully manicured lawns of Stormont Castle on an equally beautiful day which brought to mind the words of another of the North’s favourite sons, Van Morrison: “Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?”

Mr Robinson described McIlroy as a “tremendous ambassador for Northern Ireland. It gives the kind of message about Northern Ireland we want people to hear, a good news story relating to Northern Ireland.”

‘Decent fellow’

The First Minister joked that McIlroy could even sort out Stormont’s budget issues if he put his mind to it, adding he was a “thoroughly decent fellow”.

Mr McGuinness went even further. McIlroy’s win had brought “joy and happiness” into a world where so many people were mourning.

He said there was so much “sadness in different parts of world” at present, but McIlroy had created a “huge buzz for all of us”.

The Deputy First Minister recalled holding the Claret Jug when the British Open was announced for Portrush some weeks ago and wondering if one of their own could win it, and so it came to pass.

McIlroy has been here before and will be again if he can make good on his promise to be the world’s greatest golfer.

He first visited Stormont in 2011 after his first major win, the US Open. He and Robinson have quite a rapport going given the manner in which McIlroy placed a friendly hand on the First Minister’s shoulder.

McIlroy’s casual attire bespoke the youthfulness of a champion who has conquered the world at just 25. He wore a blue Nike top, jeans and a pair of Nike Air trainers which by design, or perhaps after the exertions of a night of celebration, he neglected to lace up.

He apologised for the non-appearance of the Claret Jug.

It needed a “good clean” he confessed after a hectic night in a Belfast nightclub. He posted selfies from the night club and the Jägermeister he poured into the jug.

The cheap, sickly sweet liquor confection, the drink of choice of teenagers intent on a quick alcohol hit, could hardly be more different to the $40,000 bottle of Romanée-Conti poured into it by last year’s winner, Phil Mickleson, the personification of the American country club approach to golf.

McIlroy has been the subject of an unseemly tussle over his nationality and identity, which ended recently when he declared for Ireland for the next Olympics.

Yesterday, he was proud to declare he was from Northern Ireland.

“I’m proud about where I come from and I’ll never lose sight of that. I’m not going to forget where I come from,” he said.

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