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Rory: An Open at Portrush is 'massive' for Northern Ireland

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PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – Rory McIlroy never could have imagined an Open at Royal Portrush when he grew up here in the 1990s, so he understands the significance of this event is far greater than just his pursuit of a fifth major.

“Having The Open back in this country is a massive thing for golf, and it will be a massive thing for the country,” McIlroy said Wednesday on the eve of the tournament. “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.”

Though he grew up in Holywood, a coastal village just outside of Belfast, McIlroy said that he was “oblivious” to the conflict known as the Troubles that divided the country by political and religious beliefs. 

Full-field tee times from the 148th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 148th Open Championship

That Royal Portrush is hosting an Open for the first time in 68 years also signals to McIlroy that progress is being made.

“It just means that people have moved on,” he said. “It’s a different time. ... 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’re from.

“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.”