Rory McIlroy’s heroic attempt to claw his way back up the Open Championship rankings after a poor showing on Thursday fell agonisingly short yesterday.
The pre-tournament favourite put in a Herculean effort to bring himself within a whisker of qualification for the crucial weekend stage of the competition.
But it wasn’t to be for the Co Down star as he fell short by a single shot on the final hole at Portrush.
Meanwhile, the tournament has been hailed as a “watershed moment for Northern Ireland” by Tourism NI chief John McGrillen.
“We’ve always had a challenge as to how people view us because of our past,” Mr McGrillen told the News Letter.
“But I believe people will now, as a result of this, start to see the new, vibrant Northern Ireland of today which is lightyears away from the Northern Ireland of 20 years ago.”
The chairman of the Open Championship committee at Royal Portrush, John Bamber, said: “Everyone’s a winner in this situation. It was a brave decision to bring such a massive, world event to the North Antrim coast but it’s really paying off.”
He added: “This is bigger than a sporting event.”
There was disappointment for Darren Clarke who also missed the cut for the final stages but success for the third member of the famous Ulster golfing trio Graeme McDowell. G-Mac finished the second day with a score of one-over-par and his hometown adventure continues. Tiger Woods, left, was among those who failed to make the next stage.
While the fairytale story of an Ulsterman claiming victory in the Open now looks less likely to materialise, the success of the tournament has been described as a huge boost to Northern Ireland.
Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen continued: “The real strength of Northern Ireland tourism is the magnificence of the landscape and the warmth of the people. That’s the message that we are trying to get out all the time.”
He continued: “If you look at some of the coverage that this event has had, right across the world, that message has been pumped out and broadcast all over the world.”
In the years before the decision was made to host the event at Royal Portrush, Mr McGrillen’s organisation had estimated the potential boost to the local economy as being worth £80 million.
But Mr McGrillen believes that should now be revised upward.
“Personally I would suggest that £80 million is a rather conservative figure,” he told the News Letter. “I would put the economic benefits of this north of £100 million.”
Royal Portrush member John Bamber agreed.
He told the News Letter: “It’s just wonderful to see the Northern Ireland economy getting a lift on this level.
“Everybody here has a smile on their face. You need to be here to feel that excitement and the huge welcome that’s being shown to the 600 million people watching around the world.”
He added: “This is a moment in history for Northern Ireland and I really mean that. Northern Ireland has been able to show itself off for all the right reasons.”
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts was amongst those waxing lyrical about the success of the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
Mr Roberts said: “The economy has got a real boost from this. The best advertising is word-of-mouth and I am sure the thousands of people being warmly welcomed here will be returning home and telling everyone about the great time they had.”
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