The Open 2019: Rory McIlroy on Northern Ireland legacy from hosting tournament

Rory McIlroy
The rain that hit the course on Wednesday's practice day is likely to stick around all weekend

The legacy of bringing The Open back to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years will be about more than golf for the country, says Rory McIlroy.

Royal Portrush hosts its first Open since 1951 this week, the first outside of England and Scotland since then.

McIlroy says staging the major at the County Antrim venue "speaks volumes for where the country is".

"Sport has an unbelievable ability to bring people together. They have moved on. It's a different time," he said.

"We all know that this country sometimes needs that. This has the ability to do that.

"Talking of legacy, that could be the biggest impact this tournament has outside of sport, outside of everything else, is the fact that people are coming here to enjoy it and have a good time."

McIlroy says, growing up just outside of Belfast in Holywood, he never witnessed the conflicts - which lasted for around 30 years until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

"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 come from," he added.

"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."

McIlroy's first memories of the Dunluce Links course were watching his dad play and meeting former Ryder Cup captain and 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke there at the age of 10.

He would go on to shoot a record 61 on the old course layout as a 16-year-old.

"In golfing terms I think its legacy could be young boys and girls are keen to pick a golf club up and play," said the 30-year-old.

"Golf is an accessible sport here. I'm fortunate that I grew up here because it was so accessible and you didn't have to come from money or anything to play the game.

"No matter what happens this week, if I win or whoever else wins, having The Open back in this country is a massive thing for golf and it will be a massive thing for the country."