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The Open sure to branch out to other countries, says Harrington

Predictions: Padraig Harrington believes The Open will go global
Predictions: Padraig Harrington believes The Open will go global

By Brian Keogh

The 148th Open may be ready to go global.

Padraig Harrington is convinced that the game's oldest and arguably most coveted Major will eventually move around the world and if links golf remains the criteria, there are more than a few courses outside the British Isles that could do the job.

This week's return to Royal Portrush after a 68-year absence is just the start in Harrington's eyes, and with Portmarnock another potential Irish venue, the world is the R&A's oyster after that.

"I think this is the beginning of the Open taking its place as the Open and moving around the world," Harrington said.

"Portmarnock would seem the logical first step, but in my lifetime it is possible to see it being played in the Netherlands, they have great links golf courses there, or maybe Australia.

"These are all under the auspices of the R&A so yes it could move around the world.

"I think they would always want to stay on a links golf course but who knows in a hundred years? It is not something that's going to happen in the next five years, but it is definitely could happen down the road."

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While it hosted the Amateur Championship last month having been awarded the event before the R&A introduced its ban on single-gender clubs as hosts for their championships, Portmarnock must change its rules before it can host The Open.

If the club admits women as members, Harrington sees the great Dublin links as the ideal first testing ground outside the UK and his views where echoed by Shane Lowry and Darren Clarke, who are both huge fans.

"Portmarnock is a great championship venue," said Harrington. "They obviously have their own issues. But it is definitely a possibility.

"It would be a great venue, it has the infrastructure and like here I think people would embrace it, the community would embrace it."

While Royal Portrush is guaranteed two more Opens over the next 30 years, Clarke would not be averse to Portmarnock as a first step beyond the UK.

"Put it this way, they wouldn't have had the Amateur there if they weren't looking at it," he said. "Without a doubt, Portmarnock would be a wonderful venue.

"I've had my foundation there every year, and the golf course is just fabulous. Brilliant."

As for Lowry, who arrived in Portrush feeling more excited about his game than ever coming into an Open, Portmarnock is Ireland's premier links test.

"It would be great," Lowry said. "Portmarnock I think is the best course in Ireland.

"I don't know what needs to happen but having the Amateur Championship could be first step to getting it there."

It's the Dunluce first, however, and Lowry could not be happier with his game as he prepares to play his eighth Open.

"I don't think I ever have been in a better place mentally," Lowry said, insisting he's prepared to take the rough with the smooth and "man up" and hit the shots when the hard questions are asked. "There are always going to be expectations. So it is about keeping them to a minimum and allowing myself to go out and just express myself".

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