sport

Rory holds back 'dirty' jug

Newly-crowned Open champion Rory McIlory has admitted the trophy needed a clean when appearing empty-handed in Northern Ireland.

The three-time Major winner looked a little sheepish as he apologised to Northern Ireland's political leaders at Stormont Castle in Belfast for not possessing the famous Claret Jug on Tuesday on the latest leg of his whirlwind victory tour.

Just a few hours after partying with friends at a Belfast nightclub, the 25-year-old stopped by for an informal chat with Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

"I am sorry I don't have the Claret Jug, it's not going everywhere with me," the Northern Irishman said.

"It actually needs a bit of a clean after last night. It's an amazing trophy and something that I am obviously very proud of and hopefully there are many more to come."

McIlroy first visited Robinson and McGuinness three years ago in the wake of his first Major win - the 2011 US Open.

Two days after his Open victory at Hoylake, the home-grown star from Holywood, Co Down added: "I am obviously very, very proud and honoured to come back home and come home as an Open champion and to be congratulated by everyone.

"I am very proud to be from Northern Ireland, I am very proud of where I come from and I will never lose touch of that, and I will never lose sight of that - I will never forget where I come from. To be able to share these sort of moments with people from back home and close friends and family, it's absolutely wonderful."

Robinson said he hoped McIlroy could complete the Grand Slam of Major wins with victory at the Masters at Augusta, Georgia next April.

"We are really proud of him," said the Democratic Unionist leader. "Not only in terms of the achievements of a fantastic golfing career and the competitions he's won but he is a tremendous ambassador for Northern Ireland.

"He gives the kind of messages about Northern Ireland that we want people to hear - a good news story relating to Northern Ireland. And apart from all of that he's a thoroughly decent fella."

McGuinness said the Open represented "undoubtedly the greatest prize in world golf".

"It's been absolutely a huge buzz for all of us," the Sinn Fein veteran added. "We are living in a world now where there's an awful lot of sadness in different parts of the world and this just brings so much happiness and joy to all of the people here that one of our own is seen to be one of the greatest golfers in the world today.

"No mean achievement by the age of 25 and coming from Holywood in Co Down."