McIlroy's homeland celebrates Open win

Peter Morrison/Associated Press
A picture of McIlroy holding the trophy hangs in the window of a Holywood fish shop.
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BELFAST, Northern Ireland --- His picture is everywhere. You can see it in the window of fish shops, or on cupcakes at bakeries.

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Valerie Skinner poses with a bun that was baked by her son, Colin, in Rory McIlroy's hometown of Holywood to celebrate the golfer taking his first major at the U.S. Open.   Julien Behal/Associated Press
Julien Behal/Associated Press
Valerie Skinner poses with a bun that was baked by her son, Colin, in Rory McIlroy's hometown of Holywood to celebrate the golfer taking his first major at the U.S. Open.

These are good times for Rory McIlroy, lauded by one politician as "our Celtic Tiger."

When the U.S. Open champion returns home to Northern Ireland this week, the player described as golf's heir apparent to Tiger Woods can expect an open-top bus parade in his honor.

McIlroy's record-shattering win at Congressional gave his country a second consecutive victory in the tournament, drawing tributes from British Prime Minister David Cameron and enrapturing his hometown of Holywood.

Residents had packed the Holywood Golf Club to watch him play. Right in the middle of the jubilation was McIlroy's uncle Colm, who toasted the victory by spraying champagne over the 18th tee.

"The pressure he was under was immense," Colm said. "The way he won it -- he just took the whole field out basically, won by eight shots, broke all U.S. Open records. The rest of them were just spectators."

Since the Masters Tournament began in 1934, the 22-year-old prodigy is the second youngest major champion next to Woods.

It was a victory that united politicians in a country scarred by sectarian violence for decades. Usual business in the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended to allow members to pay tribute.

"I stand here tired but elated," said Democratic Unionist Party legislator Peter Weir , who represents Holywood.

Many in the Stormont assembly spoke of McIlroy's modest background and basked in a performance that more than matched the U.S. Open victory by compatriot Graeme McDowell 12 months earlier.

"Rory McIlroy's emphatic win in the U.S. Open is one of Northern Ireland's greatest sporting moments," First Minister Peter Robinson said. "To have led from the first day of the tournament to the last shows a maturity and composure far beyond his years."

Another politician, Karen McKevitt , likened McIlroy's game to that of Woods: "We have got our own Tiger. Our Celtic Tiger."

The victory could provide an economic jolt for an island beset by economic troubles.

"This is, apart from a personal triumph, a great victory for tourism in Northern Ireland," Ulster Unionist legislator Leslie Cree said. "He is going to be a great ambassador for sport and a great ambassador for tourism."

TOURNAMENT SAFE: The Heritage Classic Foundation says Royal Bank of Canada's decision to sell its United States retail operations won't affect its recently announced sponsorship of its PGA Tour event.

A foundation spokeswoman said in an e-mail Monday to The Associated Press that PNC Financial Services Group Inc.'s purchase won't change RBC's five-year agreement to back the Heritage. Boeing Co. will serve as a local sponsor.

The Heritage had sought a company to underwrite the tournament since longtime backer Verizon pulled out after 2010.

CHARITY EVENT: In Barrington, R.I., Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson combined for a record-tying 13-under 58 on Monday to take the lead after the opening round at the CVS Caremark Charity Classic.

Kuchar rolled in a 12-foot putt on the 18th hole at Rhode Island Country Club, giving his team a one-stroke lead over defending champions J.B. Holmes and Rickey Barnes in the best-ball format. Less than 24 hours before arriving in Rhode Island, Kuchar finished in a tie for 14th at the U.S. Open.

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