Sport Golf

Tuesday 12 December 2017

McDowell declares flaws of Portrush minimal after Open bid blow

Karl MacGinty

GRAEME McDOWELL sounded a brave note of defiance last night after the R&A applied a clinical coup de grace to suggestions of the British Open going back to Royal Portrush.

Hopes that the successful recent staging of the Irish Open in front of 130,785 spectators at Portrush would hasten the return of golf's oldest Major to the Causeway Coast for the first time since 1951 were crushed by R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.

At a media briefing on the eve of today's British Open first round at Lytham, Dawson insisted: "A huge amount of money would need to be spent, in my estimation, to make Royal Portrush a sensible choice.

"That's not a criticism of Royal Portrush. It's a wonderful golf course but the commercial aspects of it are quite onerous," added Dawson. "We don't feel short of Open venues now and don't feel the pressure to rush out and look for more."

"We all know the current shortcomings of Royal Portrush," proud Portrush native McDowell retorted. "So, I sort of expected Peter's answer ... but those shortcomings are minimal.

"We're going to Merion next year for the US Open and that's basically going to be an all-seater tournament -- there's not going to be much room around the golf course, but there are ways around it.


"So, if they want to go back to Portrush badly enough, they'll go back there. Peter's a fantastic leader in golf and I expect him to make the right decision."

The R&A were impressed with several features of the Irish Open, Dawson said. "Above all, I thought the enthusiasm of the spectators was something not to be forgotten.

"While the crowd size was very good, it was only as good as perhaps the lowest crowd we expect at an Open venue, ie Turnberry."

Dawson said the tented village and grandstands at Lytham this week are 10 times the size of those at the Irish Open. "Where would you have the 72nd hole or the big grandstand which surrounds it?" he asked.

"The practice ground would need a lot of work at Portrush, in my estimation, while there'd be a considerable added expense on the ground at the golf course," Dawson added, revealing the R&A would not make a substantial investment in a venue "for a one-off."

Dawson didn't completely shut the door, saying a partnership could be formed in Northern Ireland between "the R&A, the club and possibly the government and local authorities if they really what it to happen.

"But it's a very big and involved subject ... don't expect anything imminent, that's for sure."

Irish Independent

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