The Open - R&A consider holding Open in NI

Mon, 18 Jul 11:55:00 2011

New Open champion Darren Clarke would love the tournament to return to Northern Ireland's Portrush course and his wish may come true after the Royal & Ancient promised to examine the possibility.

The Open - R&A consider Open in NI

The 42-year-old, the third Northern Irishman in 14 months to win a Major, met with R&A chief executive Peter Dawson on Sunday in the wake of his three-stroke win to discuss the feasibility of the tournament going back across the Irish Sea.

Portrush staged the Open for the one and only time in 1951 when Max Faulkner won the title but since then the championship has always been held in Scotland or England.

Next year's tournament is at north-west England's Royal Lytham, in 2013 it goes to Muirfield in Scotland and Royal Liverpool will host the event in 2014.

"I think we're all very aware that three winners from Northern Ireland increases the level of interest in this and we have said we'll take a closer look at Portrush," Dawson told a post-Open news conference at Sandwich's Royal St George's on Monday.

"I have agreed to have a look at it. The usual mixture of a great course and plenty of infrastructure combined with a prospect of commercial success is what's needed.

"I have no doubt about the golf course at Portrush, although there might be one or two things one would do, but the other two are what we have to look at.

"I don't want to start a hare running on this, other than that we will have a look."

The political situation in Northern Ireland has also been a concern for UK golf's governing body in the past.

"It'll be one of the things we take into account, although I don't think that's in the forefront of our minds," Dawson added.

Clarke, whose victory was toasted at Portrush where he honed his links golf skills, said the course was a match for all the current Open layouts but logistics could be a problem.

"That's where I would like to see it. From a personal point of view, I would love to see it going to Portrush because it's every bit as good as any Open venue that's on the rota right now," a bleary-eyed Clarke said after a night of partying.

"But until the R&A have a look at it - the logistics are huge. This week we've had unbelievable crowds, we've had 180,000. Do they think they'll get 180,000 through the gates in Northern Ireland in Portrush?

"I'm sure they would but they have to look at other aspects outside of that to make sure the tournament works. The R&A have been doing it for a very long time and they know what's required."


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