Reports: Open set for Portrush return

Updated: June 12, 2014, 6:18 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

PINEHURST, N.C. -- The Open Championship will be headed to Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland in 2019, several news outlets in the United Kingdom and Ireland as well as GolfDigest.com are reporting.

The famous links is the only one to host the championship outside of England and Scotland, doing so in 1951, when Englishman Max Faulkner won the Claret Jug.

The R&A has a news conference scheduled for Monday at the course, which is set to host the Amateur Championship next week.

Royal Portrush has gained prominence and attention in recent years, especially with the major championship victories of Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke, all of whom hail from the country and profess their admiration for the course.

"I'm very proud of where I grew up, I'm very proud of the tradition and history there, and to bring an Open Championship back to Northern Ireland is very special,'' McDowell said Thursday at the U.S. Open, despite no official word that Royal Portrush will host. "It's going to be a very special thing for Northern Ireland and Ireland in general. I just hope I'm exempt and playing well.''

Peter Dawson, CEO of the R&A, has lauded the course's championship caliber but raised concerns about infrastructure issues.

The reports have cited using two holes from an adjacent course on the property to replace a couple of weaker ones on the Portrush championship course. The date reported is 2019, although the Open has yet to announce its championship dates beyond 2016.

This year's tournament will be played at Royal Liverpool in England, followed by St. Andrews in 2015 and Royal Troon in Scotland in 2016. England's Royal Birkdale, which last hosted the Open in 2008, is widely believed to be in line to host the 2017 championship, meaning a return to Scotland in 2018 before heading to Northern Ireland.

It is unclear if the R&A intends a one-year trial or if the venue would get multiple Opens, which would mean increasing the number of venues in the rotation to 10.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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