THE Open will make a historic return to the North of Ireland in 2019, for the first time in almost 70 years.
The 148th Open will be hosted at Royal Portrush, which will be only the second time that the prestigious golfing Championship is held outside of Scotland and England.
On Tuesday, organiser the Royal & Ancient (R&A) confirmed the July 18-21, 2019 dates for the sporting event to be held in the region.
Ulsterman Darren Clarke, the 2011 Open champion, welcomed the “world’s biggest golf Championship” to his home course.
“This is going to be absolutely huge for Northern Ireland and, indeed, Ireland as a whole,” he said.
Great to see The Open coming to Portrush in 2019. One of my favorite courses. It'll be a great challenge and a huge boost for Irish golf.
— Padraig Harrington (@padraig_h) October 20, 2015
“To have the world’s biggest and best golf Championship played at such a fantastic venue as Royal Portrush, with all the passion that the Irish fans will bring to the event, is going to be amazing.”
The last time The Open was held at Royal Portrush was in 1951, when Englishman Max Faulkner lifted the famous Claret Jug.
Rory McIlroy, who lifted the trophy at Royal Liverpool in 2014, said that he was delighted by the planned changes to the course.
“Royal Portrush is one of my favourite golf courses in the world, I think it will be a fantastic Open venue,” he said. “They are going to add a couple of new holes to the golf course and I think that will be a great addition and will make the course even stronger. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Work to create two new holes, under the direction of Martin Ebert, is already under way.
— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) October 20, 2015
Using land from the adjacent Valley course, the new seventh and eighth holes will replace the current 17th and 18th.
This will free up land for the spectator village and other infrastructure.
Peter Unsworth, the Chairman of The R&A’s Championship Committee, said: “We are delighted with the progress being made on the course preparations and they will undoubtedly enhance the challenge presented by these historic links.”
R&A officials were joined at Tuesday's announcement by the North of Ireland’s Acting First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
It is expected that Royal Portrush will be well-positioned to host future Opens after the 2019 event.