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USPGA champion Keegan Bradley enters next month’s Irish open at Royal Portrush

REIGNING USPGA champion Keegan Bradley, who has never played a professional tournament in Europe, has entered next month's Irish Open at Royal Portrush.

It means three of the four players to hold major titles at the moment will be there, the other two being local heroes Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke.

"I'm very proud of my Irish heritage," said the American, whose roots are in County Cork. "And I've wanted to represent them in the Irish national championship.

"Also Graeme (McDowell) and Darren both have told me what a fabulous lay-out Portrush is, so I'm doubly excited about the opportunity to compete there."

The Irish Open has not been held in Northern Ireland since 1953, but the victories by McDowell and McIlroy in the last two US Opens and then Clarke in last summer's Open Championship inevitably led to calls for it to be staged there again - possibly followed by The Open in the near future.

Last August Bradley became only the second player since 1913 to win on his first-ever appearance in a major, beating compatriot Jason Dufner in a play-off in Atlanta, incredibly after being five shots behind with only three holes to play.

He is following the lead of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, the Masters champion, who last year played in Europe in the build-up to The Open.

Northern Ireland's tourism minister Arlene Foster said: "To have a reigning US PGA Championship winner taking part is a major coup and delivers an even greater competitive edge to this tournament.

"It proves that a small place like Northern Ireland can produce top golfers and that we have what it takes to host tournaments which attract some of the best players in the world."