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Darren Clarke confident R&A will allow Irish Open to return to Royal Portrush in 2020

 

By Brian Keogh

Darren Clarke begins his PGA Tour Champions career in Seattle on Friday but he's already looking to 2020 and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

The Dungannon man is expected to take over from Paul McGinley as host following next year's edition at Lahinch and while he's only indicated that he'd prefer to see it played on a links course, it's an open secret that Royal Portrush remains at the top of his Irish Open shopping list.

"I have preferences on where I'd like to go," Clarke said. "It would have to be agreed by (sponsor) Colm McLoughlin and the Tour and everybody else so we shall see but I am a firm believer that the Irish Open should be on a links."

The R&A is reluctant to allow Tour events to be played at its venues, but with the battle for the Claret Jug set to return to the Dunluce Links next July and with another Open unlikely to return to Portrush for close to a decade, Clarke has high hopes that he will get the nod.

Open champion in 2011, Clarke is understood to have already spoken to R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers and remains hopeful he will get the go ahead.

If he's successful, it will force likely 2022 host Graeme McDowell, who grew up in Portrush, to look elsewhere.

"I would love to host an Irish Open at Royal Portrush and I know the European Tour is in discussion with the R&A about accessing The Open venues when it's not too close to an Open Championship," McDowell said when the plans to rotate the hosting duties were announced earlier this year.

"If that was to gain approval it would open up so many great opportunities for events such as the Scottish Open, the British Masters and the Irish Open."

Tiger Woods has reiterated his desire to crown his year of redemption by winning a place on the US Ryder Cup team.

Woods is preparing to feature in the FedEx Cup play-offs at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey having qualified for the event for the first time in five years.

It follows the 42-year-old's spectacular return to form at the US PGA Championship this month, when a final round 64 placed him second behind winner Brooks Koepka.

Woods has already been named as a vice-captain for the event, which is due to start in France at the end of next month, assisting captain Jim Furyk.

"At the beginning of the year I told Jim I want to be part of the team, not just as a vice-captain but as a player, and I'm close to making that happen," he said.

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