Belfast Telegraph

Irish Open to return to Portstewart Golf Club in 2021

Jon Rahm has spoken of his love for the Portstewart course since winning the 2017 Irish Open.
Jon Rahm has spoken of his love for the Portstewart course since winning the 2017 Irish Open.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

The Irish Open will be back at Portstewart Golf Club in 2021.

The European Tour event was last played at the north coast club in 2017 and, such was the success of the event, the organisers were keen for a swift return.

Members welcomed the news at the club's AGM on Thursday evening after being told that an agreement had been reached with the Tour last week.

The European Tour is expected to formally announce the decision early next week.

While the event is moving from its mid-summer spot on the European Tour calendar to May for its visits to Mount Juliet in 2020, it is expected to return to July the following year.

If that is the case, the Irish Open will be played at Portstewart from July 1 to July 4 in 2021, teeing off the links swing with the Scottish Open and the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews following.

The 2021 Irish Open could well be given a further boost should north coast favourite Graeme McDowell be confirmed as tournament host. The likes of Rory McIlroy, 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood and Jon Rahm, who won the event the last time it visited Portstewart, will all be expected to tee it up.

Portstewart first tee.jpg
Rory McIlroy tees off at the picturesque first hole at Portstewart during the 2017 Irish Open.

The Tour's top stars are understood to have been impressed with the course on their first visit in 2017, with Rahm becoming a particularly cherished ambassador and given honorary membership last year.

"I always say Portstewart, the front nine, is arguably the most beautiful front nine I've ever played, and I can honestly say of all the golf courses I've played in the world, this is probably one of the best," he has said.

The Irish Open's return is certainly more good news for golf on the north coast, which has been booming since the tournament returned to Northern Ireland for the first time in 59 years back in 2012.

That year's tournament at Royal Portrush broke European Tour attendance records with 112,280 fans pouring through the gates.

The 2017 Irish Open at Portstewart was a similar success, the 79,856 attendance figure bigger than the previous year at the K Club, despite home favourites Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell both missing the cut.

This year's Open Championship at Royal Portrush only proved to underline the area's special stature in the golfing world as the 237,750 fans set a new attendance record for an Open played outside St Andrew's.

The scenes of a boisterous crowd welcoming champion Shane Lowry to the 18th green on Saturday and Sunday will have impressed onlookers from across the globe and local fans will again get the chance to watch top class golf in 2021.

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