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Portrush deserves the Open, says Gary Player

By Frank Brownlow

Golfing great Gary Player has enthusiastically backed Royal Portrush's bid to stage the Open.

The nine-time Major champion was an honorary starter at the Masters at Augusta yesterday along with fellow greats Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

"I love Royal Portrush, it's one of the greatest golf links in the world," said Player.

"I was very proud to win the Senior Open there. So I have great memories of Royal Portrush.

"It would be wonderful to see the Open there, most deserving.

"It would be a great thing to have the Open – which I think is the greatest tournament in the world – played at Royal Portrush. I sincerely hope it happens.

"It would be a great thing for the young people of Ireland," said the 78-year-old South African.

"I actually used to own a stallion named 'Portrush'," he added.

Talks to bring the Open to Royal Portrush – possibly by 2019 – are said to be at an advanced stage.

The Open was held at Royal Portrush once before, way back in 1951.

The north coast venue staged a highly successful Irish Open in 2012, which brought the prospect of staging the Open itself into sharp focus.

It was the first time the Irish Open had been played in Northern Ireland since 1953 when Belvoir Park hosted the event.

Then it was announced last Thursday that Royal County Down will stage next year's Irish Open, with Lough Erne Resort hosting the tournament in 2017.

Player tipped Ulsterman Rory McIlroy to be the next player to land golf's Grand Slam of Masters, Open, US Open and US PGA.

The 24-year-old Ulsterman already has the US Open and US PGA to his name.

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