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The Open 2011: Darren Clarke back home and calling for championship’s return to Northern Ireland

Sixty years since the last Open to be held beyond the mainland was played at Royal Portrush, on the County Antrim coast, the new champion declared on arrival back in Belfast how much he wanted to see the tournament come back to the beautiful ‘home’ course where he prepared for his triumph at Sandwich.


Clarke was joined by a chorus of powerful figures in the region who believe that, with three local golfers — Clarke, Holywood’s Rory McIlroy and Portrush’s Graeme McDowell — having won majors in the past 13 months, their case is irresistible.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, led the growing calls from politicians, tourism chiefs and business leaders, declaring: “As well as world-class golfers there are world-class golf courses in Northern Ireland and it would be great to see the Open played here.”

The Royal and Ancient Club chief executive, Peter Dawson, accepted that Clarke’s win offered fresh momentum to the campaign, noting: “I think we’re all very aware that three winners from Northern Ireland increases the interest level in this.”

Yet while Clarke reiterated his desire to see the event again played on the course which his home overlooks, it was laced with a touch of caution, since he knows R&A officials have previously considered the course does not have the infrastructure to cope with an event which attracted more than 180,000 spectators to Royal St George’s.

“At the moment the R&A can’t see a way of having it there, so it’s very tough,” said Clarke. “I hope in the future they will find a way around it because the golf course is every bit as good as any of the Open venues.”

Dawson said they would examine the feasibility again later this year.

The course rota means an Open at Portrush, last staged in 1951, would almost certainly not be able to be held before 2016.

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