Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Royal Portrush not in Open rotation
LYTHAM ST ANNES, England -- Royal Portrush's hopes of being added to the Open Championship rotation were dashed 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 Open Championship 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 sellout -- a first on the European Tour.
However, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, said there remains infrastructure and commercial concerns to be addressed before Royal Portrush again could be seriously considered as a Open Championship 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 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 there would be 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 Open Championship 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 Open Championship 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.