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McIlroy present, minus the Jug

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy was unable to show off his prised Claret Jug to Northern Ireland’s political leaders on Tuesday, with the Open champion admitting that it needed a good clean after a big night out celebrating.

The three-time major winner grinned as he apologised for turning up empty-handed to Stormont Castle in Belfast on the latest leg of his whirlwind victory tour.

The jug took pride of place on the table of an upmarket Belfast nightclub as McIlroy, 25, partied with friends. But it was nowhere to be seen when the Open winner stopped by for an informal chat with Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, and the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.

“I am sorry I don’t have the Claret Jug, it’s not going everywhere with me,” McIlroy said outside Stormont Castle. “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 following his first major win — the 2011 US Open. On that occasion, McGuinness almost struck one of his advisers with a shanked chip shot on the lawns of Stormont Castle during a photo call. There were no clubs in sight this time, however, as the political leaders congratulated the Holywood player on his triumph at Royal Liverpool.

“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,” McIlroy said.

“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 that he hoped McIlroy could complete the grand slam of major wins with victory at the Masters, at Augusta, next April. “We are really proud of him,” he said.

“Not only in terms of the achievements of a fantastic golfing career and the competitions he’s won, but he is also 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 that the Open represented “undoubtedly the greatest prize in world golf.” He said: “It’s been absolutely a huge buzz for all of us.”