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Saturday 10 December 2016

Clarke proud Open coming to Portrush

Darren Clarke during a press conference at Royal Portrush Golf Club, County Antrim
Darren Clarke during a press conference at Royal Portrush Golf Club, County Antrim

Former winner Darren Clarke admits he never thought it would be possible to contest the Open Championship on home soil.

The R&A announced yesterday that Clarke's home course of Royal Portrush - where his replica Claret Jug is on display - will host the Open in 2019, only the second time golf's oldest major will have been played outside England and Scotland.

During past decades of violence, the prospect of hosting the Open would have been unthinkable.

Public disorder still has a tendency to flare in July due to loyalist commemorations. The 148th Open will be staged from July 18-21.

In recent years trouble has been confined to parts of Belfast, 80km from Portrush, but 2011 Open champion Clarke concedes he would have been "foolish" to imagine the Open returning to Portrush.

"I played a lot of my golf here, I lived here and was a proud member here, but to think would we ever get through the dark times Northern Ireland has had, to get to this stage where we have the biggest and best tournament in the world, I'd be very foolish to say yes," the European Ryder Cup captain said.

"Nobody could foresee that coming through in the bad old days, but to see how far we have all come, how far our politicians have moved this part of the country on, it's been brilliant."

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