Royal Portrush no closer to hosting British Open

Royal Portrush’s hopes of being added to the British Open

rotation were dashed on Wednesday, with organizers still having

concerns about the ability of the Northern Irish course to stage a

tournament of such magnitude.

There is pressure on Royal and Ancient to bring the British Open

back to the highly acclaimed Antrim venue for the first time since

1951 following the recent major victories of Northern Irishmen

Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke over the past two

years.

Royal Portrush also successfully hosted the Irish Open this

year, with more than 100,000 spectators pouring through the gates

to make all four days of the tournament a sell-out – a first on the

European Tour.

However, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, said

there remains infrastructure and commercial concerns that need to

be addressed before Royal Portrush could again be seriously

considered as a British Open venue.

”A huge amount of money would need to be spent, in my

estimation, to make Royal Portrush a sensible choice,” Dawson

said. ”That’s not a criticism of Royal Portrush – it’s a wonderful

golf course. But the commercial aspects of it are quite

onerous.

”It’s always been to an extent on our radar. And our

championship committee will, I’m sure, continue to evaluate it. But

don’t expect anything imminent, that’s for sure.”

Dawson did acknowledge that he was taken aback by the enthusiasm

of the spectators at the Irish Open, which was held in Northern

Ireland this year for the first time since 1953.

But that wasn’t enough to convince him that there would be

enough room for a tented village at the course or a 20,000-seat

grandstand around the 18th hole, among other issues.

There are currently nine courses in the British Open rotation –

St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Muirfield, Troon, Turnberry, Lytham,

Birkdale, Hoylake and Royal St. George’s – and there is no pressing

need for a 10th.

”We don’t feel short of Open venues now, let me say,” Dawson

said. ”We’re not rushing to look for more, we don’t feel that

pressure.

”But what did impress hugely about the Irish Open was the

logistics worked well, the traffic flows and all of that. But above

all, I thought the enthusiasm of the spectators was something not

to be forgotten, and that’s a very strong point.”

Clarke, who won the British Open at Royal St. George’s last

year, has been a major advocate of the event returning to Northern

Ireland for the first time since Max Faulkner lifted the claret jug

61 years ago.

Turnberry and Hoylake have both dropped out of the rotation in

the past because of logistical issues, but returned to hold

memorable championships.