Royal Portrush put on alert to host again in 2024

Lo­cally born Mc­dow­ell pleads for quick re­turn R&A has con­cerns about main ri­val Royal Lytham

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - The Open - By James Cor­ri­gan PORTRUSH RE­PORT CARD

Royal Portrush waited 68 years to re-stage the Open but there might only be a five-year hia­tus to the next time. The R&A is con­sid­er­ing bring­ing its ma­jor back to the County 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 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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