Sunday 18 August 2019

Portrush put on alert to play role as Open host in 2024

Graeme McDowell on the 18th green after finishing his round during Day Four. Photo: Sportsfile
Graeme McDowell on the 18th green after finishing his round during Day Four. Photo: Sportsfile

James Corrigan

Royal Portrush waited 68 years to re-stage the Open, but there might only be a five-year hiatus to the next time, as the R&A is considering bringing its Major back to the Co Antrim links in 2024.

Club insiders have revealed their organising committees have been put on alert for what in terms of the modern staging of events would be a quick turnaround, and Graeme McDowell, who was born and raised in the town, yesterday pleaded with the governing body to make the return "sooner rather than later".

"I've also heard the whispers that we could be back here as soon as five years from now and I think with the financial commitment that Portrush have made for this, for it to get the recognition and then get back here soon, to keep that Portrush train rolling, it would be huge," McDowell said after finishing with a 77 for a four-over total.

"If we have to wait another 10 years, the icing might rub off between now and then. People might forget a little bit. So hopefully we can get back soon. It would be very, very special."

Portrush has been guaranteed two more Opens in the next 30 years, but that will now be the bare minimum.

Tickets were sold out and the attendance of 237,750 was the second biggest ever after St Andrews' 239,000 in 2000.


There was also a high demand for corporate hospitality, making it one of the most profitable Opens, while there was almost unanimous praise of the course from players.

Royal St George's in Kent is next year's host, followed by St Andrews for the 150th Open in 2021 and Royal Liverpool in 2022. Muirfield is almost certain to stage the 2023 Championship, the Edinburgh course having finally admitted female members, while St Andrews will be the venue for 2025.

The R&A will not want to stage three Opens in succession in Scotland, leaving Lancashire's Royal Lytham and Portrush to fight it out. Lytham is still on the roster, but is hanging on by its fingertips, with Martin Slumbers the R&A chief executive, recently outlining the concerns with the Fylde club.

"Royal Lytham is a fantastic course and in terms of infrastructure is right up there," Slumbers said.

"We get around 200,000 spectators in the week, but it's a squeeze and the TV compound is five acres of land."

Lytham would be a loss, having hosted some of the most memorable Opens, including triumph for Tony Jacklin in 1969 and two victories for Seve Ballesteros in 1979 and 1988, as well as Ernie Els in 2012.

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