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Harrington insists Royal Portrush ready to host Open

ROYAL PORTRUSH will this week take one giant leap closer to hosting the British Open, according to Padraig Harrington.

Describing the decision to play the Irish Open on the Dunluce Links as "inspired," Harrington made a powerful argument for the return of the oldest Major to Portrush for the first time since 1951.

"Challenge-wise, there's no doubt the golf course itself is ready," he insisted. "I'd love to play a British Open here. It'd be unbelievable."

Harrington has been blown away by "the atmosphere and the crowds that have turned out" for Irish Open practice and the prospect of playing in front of 27,000-plus attendances during the tournament itself.

"I'm absolutely thrilled the Irish Open is here," said the Dubliner. "They have exceeded all expectations so far. This has been an inspired decision and will lead to other Irish Opens and more things down the road."

Harrington revealed his role as Playing Ambassador to the R&A gave him an opportunity to raise Portrush with the world body's chief executive Peter Dawson.

"I've had plenty of discussions with him," Harrington said. "I think as a policy, the R&A would be thrilled if they could bring the Open Championship here -- but I believe there's a bigger question when it comes to infrastructure and stuff like that.

"This golf course is well capable of staging the event, but there's bigger issues."

As for the financial implications of bringing the event across the water, Harrington suggested the R&A cannot fail to be impressed by this week's record sell-out crowds. "There's no doubt this golf course is ready for an Open. Hopefully they (the R&A) are watching this week," he said.

British Open venues up to Royal Troon in 2016 have already been announced.

Irish Independent