Tuesday 20 August 2019

'It would seem the logical first step' - Padraig Harrington makes the case for Portmarnock to host the Open

Padraig Harrington walks from the first tee during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Padraig Harrington walks from the first tee during a practice session at The 148th Open golf Championship at Royal Portrush golf club. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

The 148th Open is in north Antrim this week, and the 150th will be played at the Home of Golf but fast forward to 2050, and all bets are off. The Open, it appears, may be ready to go global.

Pádraig Harrington is convinced the game's oldest - and arguably most coveted - Major will eventually move around the world and if links golf remains the criteria, there are more than a few courses outside the British Isles that could readily do the job.

This week's return to Royal Portrush after a 68-year absence is just the start in Harrington's eyes, and with Portmarnock another potential Irish venue, the world is the R&A's oyster after that.

"Portmarnock would seem the logical first step, but in my lifetime it is possible to see it being played in the Netherlands, they have great links golf courses there, or maybe Australia," said Harrington. "These are all under the auspices of the R&A so yes it could move around the world.

"It is not something that's going to happen in the next five years, but it definitely could happen down the road."

While the Dublin course hosted the Amateur Championship last month - having been awarded the event before the R&A introduced its ban on single-gender clubs as hosts for their championships - Portmarnock must change its rules before it can aspire to host The Open.

If the club admits women as members, Harrington sees the great Dublin links venue first testing ground outside the UK and his views were echoed by Shane Lowry and Darren Clarke, who are both huge fans.

"It has the infrastructure and like here I think people would embrace it, the community would embrace it. We are seeing that with golf. If you want to have a really great event, you have to have the buy-in of all the stakeholders, not just the sponsors."

While Royal Portrush is guaranteed two more Opens over the next 30 years, Clarke would not be averse to Portmarnock as a first step beyond the UK.

"Put it this way, they wouldn't have had the Amateur there if they weren't looking at it," he said. "Without a doubt, Portmarnock would be a wonderful venue.."

As for Lowry, who arrived in Portrush feeling more excited about his game than ever coming into an Open, Portmarnock is Ireland's premier links test.

"I don't know what needs to happen but having the Amateur Championship could be first step to getting it there," said Lowry.

It's the Dunluce first, however, as the Offaly man prepares to play his eighth Open. After completing a miserable quadrilateral last year by following missed cuts at St Andrews, Troon and Royal Birkdale with another failure at Carnoustie.

"I don't think I ever have been in a better place mentally," he added.

"When I am mentally not good, I don't allow myself to hit the shot I see. Whereas when I am in a good frame of mind, I hit the shots I see, no matter how difficult the course.

"That's when I am at my best."

His win in Abu Dhabi didn't just secure his return to the world's top 50, it gifted him the freedom to play without having to keep one eye on a rankings table or money list.

"Obviously Rory (McIlroy) is the big attraction this week because of where it is," he remarked while making reference to his under-the-radar profile

"That was my plan coming up here, get out and sneak around the place and hopefully pop up on Sunday afternoon around six o'clock and see what happens."

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