Sunday 25 September 2016

Darren Clarke: 2019 Open in Royal Portrush is absolutely huge for Ireland

Published 20/10/2015 | 10:11

29 June 2012; Padraig Harrington plays from a bunker back onto the 2nd fairway during the 2012 Irish Open Golf Championship. Royal Portrush, Portrush, Co. Antrim. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
29 June 2012; Padraig Harrington plays from a bunker back onto the 2nd fairway during the 2012 Irish Open Golf Championship. Royal Portrush, Portrush, Co. Antrim. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

The R&A has announced that Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland will host the Open Championship in 2019, only the second time golf's oldest major will have been played outside England and Scotland.

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Portrush has not hosted a major championship since the 1951 Open won by Max Faulkner, but the Irish Open drew massive crowds there in 2012 and the likes of major champions Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell have been lobbying on Portrush's behalf.

Former R&A chief executive Peter Dawson had previously cited the record-breaking attendance at the 2012 Irish Open as both an ''eye opener'' and ''tipping point'' when it came to deliberations about taking the tournament across the Irish sea.

In August last year, club members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the course changes required to host the Open, which will be staged from July 18-21.

Peter Unsworth, R&A Championship Committee chairman, said: "We are very much looking forward to bringing The Open to Royal Portrush in 2019 and believe it will be a tremendous venue for the Championship.

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"We know there is great anticipation throughout Ireland at the prospect of welcoming the world's top golfers and it promises to be a hugely memorable week.

"We are delighted with the progress being made on the course preparations and they will undoubtedly enhance the challenge presented by these historic links."

The decision to choose Royal Portrush as 2019 Open host is something of a coup for Northern Ireland and Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke have no doubt that the course will be a fitting venue.

World number three and 2014 Open winner McIlroy said: "Royal Portrush is one of my favourite golf courses in the world. I think it will be a fantastic Open venue.

"They are going to add a couple of new holes to the golf course and I think that will be a great addition and will make the course even stronger. I'm really looking forward to it."

The Open is expected to be the biggest sporting event ever held in Northern Ireland and could generate up to £70million for the local economy.

European Ryder Cup captain Clarke added: "This is going to be absolutely huge for Northern Ireland and, indeed, Ireland as a whole. To have the world's biggest and best golf Championship played at such a fantastic venue as Royal Portrush, with all the passion that the Irish fans will bring to the event, is going to be amazing."

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