British Open set to return to Royal Portrush in 2019
R&A expected to hold press conference next Monday at Co Antrim links
Rory McIlroy putting on the 18th green during the final round of the 2012 Irish Open held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush. The course is set to host the British Open in 2019. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
A month after insisting it remained “some distance” from being able to stage the British Open in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, the R&A is set to announce Royal Portrush will host the championship in 2019.
Rumours of the British Open returning to Portrush have been circulating for some time, with reports on May 11th claiming a deal had been done for 2019, 68 years after Max Faulkner won the only British Open staged outside England and Scotland.
The R&A’s initial response on Twitter labelled such reports as “Portrush rumours” and a statement issued later read: “As part of our commitment to examine the feasibility of staging an Open Championship at Portrush, The R&A continues to discuss this at a conceptual level with Royal Portrush Golf Club and the Northern Ireland Executive.
“Discussions have been positive but we are still some distance from being in a position to take The Open to Northern Ireland.”
However, it is understood an announcement is expected to be made shortly, possibly on Monday to coincide with the first day of the Amateur Championship which is being staged at Portrush and Portstewart.
The R&A denied reports last summer that the British Open was set to be held at Portrush in 2018. R&A chief executive Peter Dawson admitted that it is “a fantastic golf course,” but concerns remained over the infrastructure required to stage a Major and Dawson feels the current nine-course British Open rota is “about right”.
A revamped plan to use holes on both the Dunluce and Valley courses at the 36-hole layout are believed to have made the plan viable.
Portrush has not hosted a Major championship since the 1951 Open, but the Irish Open drew massive sold-out crowds there in 2012 and the likes of Major champions Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell have been lobbying on Portrush’s behalf.
It has also been suggested that the R&A would hasten their decision after Portrush emerged as a surprise contender to stage the US PGA Championship.
The PGA of America is studying the impact of holding the event outside the United States, with the earliest possible date in 2020. It had been thought that Asia would be the most likely venue, but PGA of America president Ted Bishop said in November last year that he was interested in Portrush.
Portrush native McDowell, whose brother works at the club, said at the time: “It’s always been a dream of mine to play the Open there but the US PGA would do nicely.
“It’s very bizarre and an amazing statement. I couldn’t believe it and read it three times. I had heard the US PGA was looking at going global, which is a very positive step forward, but I was expecting Asia, not the north coast of Ireland.
“Even if it never comes to fruition it’s a great boost to be mentioned in that breath. My brother Gary is on the greenkeeping staff there and he will have a spring in his step.”