Thursday 5 December 2019

Irish Open confirmed for Portstewart in 2021

Pádraig Harrington. Photo: Reuters
Pádraig Harrington. Photo: Reuters

Brian Keogh

Big-time golf will be returning to Northern Ireland after Portstewart Golf Club confirmed it would host its second Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in 2021.

The news was announced at the club's AGM on Thursday evening after it reached an agreement with the European Tour last week.

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Next year's Irish Open will be held at Mount Juliet in Co Kilkenny from May 28-31 but a links staging would suggest a return to a mid-summer date is possible in 2021, as Pádraig Harrington predicted last month.

"The links swing has not gone by the board," Harrington said of the move to parkland in May next year. "It's just that this opportunity arose with the Olympics now part of the summer schedule.

"So the links swing is going to be back for sure. And it is of benefit to the Irish Open to have that option where players will want to play links golf two weeks before The Open and not a week before."

No host has been announced for the Irish Open next year with Harrington, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke all ruling themselves out.

All eyes were on Graeme McDowell, who hosted Harrington at his Florida home for this week's Thanksgiving celebrations, and he may now prefer to wait another 12 months and do the job closer to home.

Portstewart successfully hosted the $7 million Rolex Series event in 2017 when current champion Jon Rahm clinched the first of his two titles.

It's a venue that would appeal to Clandeboye's Jonathan Caldwell, who made his first European Tour cut for ten years in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. Despite battling 40c temperatures, Caldwell (35) shot a three-under 69 - the only bogey-free round of the day and just the second all week - to share 14th on one-under-par.

"I didn't do anything fantastically well today, just kept it in play and missed it in the correct places," said Caldwell, who is eight strokes behind Spain's Pablo Larrazábal.

"But my putting has been good. I've been holing out my three-, four- and five-footers which is key with the course only getting firmer. It's a tough test with the rough up."

Larrazábal (36) made six birdies in a three-under 69 to lead by one stroke from South Africa's Branden Grace and the Netherlands Will Besseling.

But Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin followed his opening 80 with a 73 to miss the cut and pulled out of next week's Mauritius Open.

"Yesterday has told me that I'm ready for some well needed time off," the Challenge Tour graduate said.

Reflect

"I was going to play in Mauritius, but I'm done for the year after this. I need to take time off, reflect and learn from this year and be fully ready for 2020."

In Turkey, Glasson's Colm Moriarty had to settle for second place in the PGA Play-Offs at Antalya Golf Club and a spot in next season's British Masters.

The Athlone professional bogeyed the 18th and carded a two-under 69 to finish one stroke behind Michael Bullen.

On the Ladies European Tour, Leona Maguire was tied 45th on three-over after a second-round 74 in the Andalucia Costa del Sol Open de Espana at Aloha, 11 shots behind Germany's Karolin Lampert.

On the Staysure Tour, England's Gary Evans opened with a three-under 68 to lead the inaugural MCB Tour Championship - Madagascar by a shot as Paul McGinley shot 74 and Philip Walton 75.

Meanwhile, Portmarnock's Conor Purcell made seven birdies in a five-under 67 to make the cut with ease on his professional debut in the $400,000 NSW Open near Sydney.

The Dubliner (22) was tied for 34th on three-under heading into this morning's third round at Twin Creek.

  • Alfred Dunhill Championship, Live, Sky Sports, 9.30am
  • Andalucia Open de Espana, Live, Sky Sports, 2.30pm

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