The Open 2019: Rory McIlroy’s young fans certain he can rebound after brutal start

July 18, 2019

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — Rory McIlroy’s Open Championship began dreadfully, with an O.B. tee shot that resulted in a quadruple bogey.  Despite his steadying of the ship on holes 2-15, his round ended in ignominy, too, with a painful double and triple bogey on two of his final three holes.

But the young, pint-sized patrons at Royal Portrush haven’t lost faith in their local hero, even after a first-round 79 that has left him 12 shots back of Shane Lowry’s lead. I spoke to a few of them as they browsed the merchandise with their families in Open Championship shop.

“At the beginning it wasn’t great, but it’s got better,” a 13-year-old named Ben said of the start of McIlroy’s round. “I have faith he can turn it around.”

Ben’s grandfather, Desmond, was slightly more cynical: “He predictably started off with a bad hole. I was horrified. To go four over on the 1st hole and put the cut in jeopardy, my goodness me. However, maybe he’ll have a run of birdies, a couple of eagles, an albatross, who can say? Just remember, this is a course that he holds the course record for!”

Eleven-year-old Oscar respected the pressure McIlroy is under this week. “I think he started off quite shaky, but he’ll climb back up the leaderboard,” he said. “It’s a lot of pressure. He needs to carry on improving in his game and get more confident. I have faith that he can do it.”

Emma, who is 8, was with her mother, Tanya, as they watched McIlroy play his first hole. “We were on the first tee box,” Tanya told me. “He went out of bounds and we were very sad. He needs a good round tomorrow.”

I asked Emma if she believes that McIlroy can bounce back. She nodded.

Nine-year-old Patrick was similarly optimistic. “I think Rory could have done a wee bit better, but it was quite tough,” he said. “I think he can still bounce back. He still has a chance.”

“I felt bad for Rory [after the first hole],” said a 10-year-old named Aaryn. “But I think he can still get back in there tomorrow. He’s strong with his drivers and he’s positive, most of the time.”

To be fair, the children (and parents) with whom I spoke hadn’t yet seen McIlroy’s double-par-triple finish, but given their relentless optimism it’s hard to imagine they still wouldn’t be bullish about his chances of rebounding. We’ll see if McIlroy can give those kids something to cheer about on Friday.

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