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McDowell optimistic over Portrush

Graeme McDowell believes the "minimal" shortcomings of Royal Portrush can be overcome in order for the course to stage the Open Championship.

A successful staging of this year's Irish Open was expected to boost hopes of the Open returning to the venue for the first time since 1951, but R&A chief executive Peter Dawson has played down the prospects of that happening, warning it would take some time before a view would be taken on adding Portrush to the nine-course Open rota.

But former US Open champion McDowell believes he and fellow Northern Irish major winners Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke need not give up hope just yet of playing an Open on home soil. McDowell said: "We know the current shortcomings of Royal Portrush, so I sort of expected Peter's answer, but they are minimal."

He added: "I always keep saying to the guys that we are going to Merion next year for the US Open and that's going to be basically an all-seater tournament.

"There is not going to be much room around the golf course, so there are ways around it. So if they want to go back to Royal Portrush badly enough, they will go back there.

"There are a lot of factors involved and I have a huge amount of respect for Peter Dawson as he's a fantastic leader in golf. I know he will make the correct decision."

Dawson admitted the enthusiasm of the spectators was a strong point in Portrush's favour, but added: "If you were at the Irish Open and compare it with what we're doing here, we're talking 20,000 grandstand seats, and there I doubt they had 2,000 at the Irish Open.

"You're talking about a tented village here I would estimate 10 or more times the size it was at the Irish Open. And the crowd size at the Irish Open, whilst it was very good, was only as good as perhaps the lowest crowd we expect at an Open venue, ie Turnberry.

"A huge amount of money would need to be spent, in my estimation, to make Royal Portrush a sensible choice.

"That's not a criticism of Royal Portrush; it's a wonderful golf course, but the commercial aspects of it are quite onerous."


From Belfast Telegraph