The success of the 148th open Championship at Royal Portrush appears to have bumped up the likelihood of a quicker return than might have been imagined with reports in the Daily Telegraph and a little whispering from Graeme McDowell suggesting it could be back as soon as five years time in 2024.
The course is one of ten which are on the current roster of links courses to stage the Open. The commitment on returning to the course is understood to have included two more over the course of the next 30 years but the likelihood is that the next staging will be at the shorter end of the scale.
The attendance over the four days of Championship action was 237,750, a total only exceeded once in history when Tiger Woods won at St Andrew’s in 2000.
The fact that all the tickets were sold out in advance for the first time and that they went within weeks of going on sale last summer will also have played well with the organisers at the R&A.
The organisation of the tournament went as smoothly as anyone could have imagined, especially in a town which only has a population of 7,000.
Transport worked without a hitch and the camping and glamping site hosted on the nearby Ulster University campus at Coleraine was a big winner in relieving any accommodation pinch points.
The University also supplied all of the yellow vested volunteers in the grandstands and around the course while the Marshalls in their sky blue tops were provided by golf courses around the island of Ireland.
That the tournament could sustain the double blow of losing Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to the halfway cut, and come back stronger in the groundswell of support for Shane Lowry is another factor in the enthusiasm for a quick return.
The acceptance of the ban on single-use plastic water bottles as part of the Open Water initiative that featured as part of our Sport for Social Good Conference on Thursday is another feather in the cap and the reaction of players and caddies was universally excellent both to the set up of the course and the reaction of the fans.
Royal Portrush is one of ten courses on the active list of Open Championship host venues. All are well established links courses with five in Scotland and four in England.
We know that Royal St George’s on the south coast of England will stage next year’s tournament and that the 150th Open will return to its spiritual home at St Andrew’s. in 2022 it will go to Royal Liverpool Golf club and the rumours are that 2023 will be at Murfield and that Royal Portrush is now in the driving seat for 2024.
The investment that was required to make it suitable as an effective ‘first-time’ venue in the modern era has now been made and a return is easier than it would have been this time, another potential factor in a quick return.
When Royal Portrush was selected it was with five years notice back in June 2014.
This year’s planning was shadowed by uncertainty over Brexit, an issue which we can only hope and imagine will have been resolved by the time of a return.
The value of the tournament will be researched and evaluated in the coming weeks and months. The final number will be a big one for Irish tourism north and south of the border, for Irish golf and for Irish sport on the world stage.
To imagine that we can do it all again in a shorter window than was previously thought remotely likely is exciting for all.
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