Royal Portrush to host Irish Open in 2012, with hopes of British Open later

royal portrush
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Royal Portrush will host the 2012 Irish Open three weeks before the British Open is staged at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's.
By
PA Sport and Associated Press

Series: European Tour

Published: Friday, January 06, 2012 | 1:17 p.m.

The Irish Open will return to Royal Portrush in 2012, the first time in 59 years that the tournament will be staged north of the border.

The European Tour also announced Friday the 2013 event will be held at Carton House Golf Club in County Kildare, Ireland -- the venue for the championship in 2005 and 2006.

Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell -- three recent Irish major winners -- are all members at Royal Portrush. It hosted the British Open in 1951 and the Senior British Open in 1995-99 and 2004.

This year’s Irish Open will be held June 28-July 1, three weeks before the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s in northern England.

The decision to move the European Tour event northward from Killarney in 2012 comes on the back of the achievements of Northern Ireland's three major winners in the last two years. All three players – 2011 British Open winner Clarke, 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy and 2010 U.S. Open winner McDowell -- backed the bid to bring the Irish Open to the town's famous links course.

It is hoped that a successful staging of the Irish Open in June will add further momentum to the campaign to bring the British Open itself back to Northern Ireland. The Open has only been staged in the region once before, at Royal Portrush in 1951, but the three major wins by local golfers prompted a clamor for a return and heaped pressure on the Royal and Ancient to bring the tournament across the Irish Sea.

Northern Ireland's stars welcomed the decision to bring top-class golf back to the country.

"Royal Portrush is one of the best courses in the world and to have the Irish Open there and play my first European Tour event in Northern Ireland in front of home fans will be very special," said McIlroy.

"The course holds great memories for me; from watching my dad play in the North of Ireland there as a toddler to playing in it myself as a 15-year-old and shooting a course-record 61. It's a superb set-up and players new to the course are going to love it."

The mid-summer scheduling of the tournament is another bonus, according to McIlroy.

"The rescheduling of the Irish Open to late June is also a great plus given that the Open Championship takes place three weeks later," he said. "Hosting an event on one of the best links courses in the world that close to an Open Championship is sure to generate a strong field."

Reigning Open champion Clarke also welcomed the news.

"It is fantastic news that an event of the caliber of the Irish Open is coming to Portrush," he said. "I'm pleased for everybody in this part of the world, and the decision to come here reflects the amazing run this relatively small golf community has had in the last couple of years. Best of all, it will be great to sleep in my own bed during that week!"

McDowell, the third member of Northern Ireland's recent major-winning club, added: "It has always been a dream of mine to play a big event, be it an Open Championship or a European Tour event, at Royal Portrush Golf Club, and I am going to be very proud to have the European Tour come to the town where I learned to play golf."

The tournament was last staged in Northern Ireland in 1953, when Scotland’s Eric Brown won at the Belvoir Park Golf Club in Belfast.