Clarke's Open triumph sparks clamour for Royal Portrush to host Major
Published 19/07/2011 | 05:00
BRITISH OPEN hero Darren Clarke has struck a mighty blow for his adopted home town in their bid to bring golf's oldest Major back to Portrush.
Under intense pressure to stage the Open at Royal Portrush following Clarke's victory on Sunday, the R&A yesterday made their strongest commitment yet to launching a feasibility study into the Antrim seaside resort's credentials as a future venue.
In an effort to move this process one step further, Northern Ireland Tourism Minister Arlene Foster described the staging of the Irish Open at Royal Portrush as "very much a probability in the near to medium future".
"That will showcase Royal Portrush in a way which will make it easier to get the British Open here," the minister added.
"Once the R&A see that we can organise an event like the Irish Open, they will look at us in a more meaningful way."
Clarke's stunning victory, on the back of last month's success by Rory McIlroy at the US Open, has given a super boost to next week's Irish Open in Killarney.
With all four of Ireland's Major champions, including Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, playing on the Killeen Course, the event now is regarded as one of the hottest tickets in Irish sport this summer.
Yet with three of those champions hailing from Northern Ireland, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson came under pressure during yesterday's post-Open briefing to explain what Royal Portrush needed to do to host the Open for the first time since its only visit to Irish shores in 1951.
Dawson was unable to pinpoint Portrush's exact shortcomings when asked to do so, but added that the political situation in Northern Ireland could potentially be an issue.