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Kent benefits by £77m from The Open - what could Royal Portrush rake in?

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The Open won by Darren Clarke was of huge value to the county of Kent this year

The Open won by Darren Clarke was of huge value to the county of Kent this year

Streeter Lecka

The Open won by Darren Clarke was of huge value to the county of Kent this year

Darren Clarke’s victory in The Open this summer at Sandwich saw the county of Kent benefit by £77million.

And the suitability of Royal Portrush to stage The Open has surely been confirmed by the fact that 180,000 spectators attended Sandwich during the week, 37,000 travelling on the special high speed train service from London.

If Sandwich can stage The Open with the help of a decent train service from London, then Royal Portrush can do so thanks to good connections to Belfast.

The figure of £77m includes an economic impact of £24.1m and a destination marketing benefit of £52.6m, according to independent research.

Royal and Ancient Club chief executive Peter Dawson said: “We found a worthy winner in Darren Clarke at Royal St George’s and we are delighted that the championship also delivered a significant economic impact to the local community.”

Only last week a pledge to bring a European Tour tournament — the Irish Open — to Northern Ireland by 2013 was one of more than 70 commitments made in the Stormont Executive's Programme for Government.

The Irish Open is expected to provide a showcase for a possible bid to host The Open.

Two of the four Major champions — Clarke and Rory McIlroy — hail from Northern Ireland, while Portrush’s Graeme McDowell won last year’s US Open.

Meanwhile, under pressure Clarke has been trying to end what he calls an “incredibly frustrating” spell in the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum this week.

Since winning The Open in July, the 43-year-old Ulsterman has not managed a top-30 finish —unless, of course, you include fourth place out of four at last month's Grand Slam in Bermuda.

Clarke insists it is not through lack of effort after capturing the biggest title going and celebrating through the night and beyond.

“Obviously, I am a little bit more in demand now than I was before, but it has all been good,” he said.

“If anything it has spurred me on to work harder than I ever have before — and I work pretty hard anyway. I've just been trying too hard and as much as I try to chill out a bit, I just can't wait to get out and and play. Hopefully, my fortunes will change.”

With the Claret Jug making the trip as well, Clarke is at the start of a four-week stint that also takes in the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, the Dubai World Championship and the Thailand Championship.

He is up against a field this week that includes eight of the players who took part in the Presidents Cup last week —Australians Adam Scott, Aaron Baddeley, Robert Allenby, Geoff Ogilvy and Jason Day, plus American Bubba Watson and Koreans YE Yang and KT Kim.

“The guys are going to be immensely tired,” Clarke said. “I couldn't imagine playing. After I have played in the Ryder Cup, I just could not play the week after.”

The Dungannon man partners Scott and International captain Greg Norman in the first two rounds and Scott, who with KJ Choi inflicted a record defeat on Tiger Woods and then beat Phil Mickelson in singles, is the pre-tournament favourite.

Belfast Telegraph