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Portrush will be second biggest Open with crowd of over 237,000

Chief Executive of the R&A Martin Slumbers
Chief Executive of the R&A Martin Slumbers

By Carl Markham

The Open's return to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951 will set a new attendance record for a Championship outside of St Andrews.

Tickets for every day of the tournament, including a record-breaking 61,000 for practice days, have sold out, meaning more than 237,000 spectators will have walked through the gates by the time the final putt drops on Sunday.

Only St Andrews in 2000, with 239,000, has had a bigger attendance in the event's history.

"I said last year that big-time sport needs big-time crowds and we certainly have that at Royal Portrush as we stage the biggest sporting event ever to be held in Northern Ireland," said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers.

"It is a huge week for golf, a historic week for golf."

Portrush's return to the Open rota takes the number of courses now vying to host the event to 10 and with Royal St George's and St Andrews confirmed as the next two venues, every course has now staged it at least once since Turnberry in 2009.

Slumbers also hinted a name change was in the offing for the Women's British Open when the R&A takes full responsibility for the championship next year.

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"That's something we are considering very carefully. We'll be announcing something in due course," he said.

Prize money for August's women's event will rise 40 percent to £3.6million, with the winner receiving £540,000, up from £392,000 in 2018.

By contrast, the winner of the Claret Jug this year will bank £1.4m from a total prize fund of £8.5m.

It is a disparity the R&A is trying to reduce, although with the Open by far its biggest money-spinner there is a balance to be struck.

"I think we have to keep growing the Open," Slumbers added.

"This is our biggest event and we need to keep growing it to keep it one of the greatest sporting events with half an eye on how we improve the difference in pay between the Open and the Women's Open."

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