Royal Portrush is fit to host Open, insists Clarke

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The Independent Online

The new Open champion Darren Clarke has reiterated his belief that Royal Portrush would be able to host the event. With Northern Ireland having produced three major winners in the last 13 months – Clarke joined Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy – the 42-year-old feels his home course would be the ideal venue if the Royal and Ancient were to look to capitalise on the current enthusiasm for the game in the country.

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson has said the body will need to look at the infrastructure, commercial opportunities and potential security risks of taking the Open to Portrush for the first time since 1951.

But Clarke said yesterday: "There is a lot of momentum behind it and this course is fit to host any tournament. Logistics are tough when it comes to staging majors like the Open, or the Irish Open. But, if the R&A look at it, we play at Royal Lytham, which is a smaller acreage than here, and hopefully they can reassess. With us doing so well it would be great to see us get a major championship here."

Clarke also presented his medal for winning at Sandwich to Royal Portrush, so it could be displayed next to the medal awarded to Fred Daly for his 1947 success.

He paid tribute to the club, saying: "I have been fortunate enough to have played around the world but, living in Portrush, this is the best course in the world and I am privileged to give them the medal so people can come into the club and see it. It maybe would have ended up in a drawer at home so I am glad people can come here and see it.

"I moved back home in July last year with my boys and to come and practise here in that tough weather definitely helped my preparation for Sandwich."

Meanwhile, McIlroy, who lifted the US Open by eight shots last month, has parted company with his girlfriend. A statement said: "Rory's long-time relationship with Holly Sweeney came to an amicable end before the Open."

Pre-tournament favourite McIlroy finished only 25th at Royal St George's and was in a gloomy moody afterwards, not about his personal life, but his ability to handle windy conditions. After finishing his final round, McIlroy said: "I'm looking forward to getting back to America and getting back into some nice conditions."

Clarke has been seen as something of a mentor to McIlroy ever since the youngster attended his Foundation clinics. He was asked on Monday before flying back to his Portrush home what help he could still offer McIlroy.

"There's lots of advice, but I'm not going to share it with you," Clarke told reporters. "I will share that with him in the coming weeks, but in terms of what he can do, he is as talented, even more talented, than anybody on the planet with what he can do with a golf ball. He'll be fine – he'll be OK."

The pair play next at the Irish Open in Killarney starting a week tomorrow and as major champions will be in the same group – along with Masters champion Charl Schwartzel – in the first two rounds of the USPGA.