The Open: Press conference confirms Royal Portrush

media captionPeter Dawson of the R&A made the announcement on Monday at Royal Portrush

The Royal Portrush course has been confirmed as the venue for one of the world's biggest golf tournaments, the Open Championship, possibly in 2019.

The event will return to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951.

The earliest it can be held will be 2019, however, this depends on infrastructure work being completed and approved.

Peter Dawson of the R&A, which organises the Open, said he expected huge interest from the NI public.

He said Royal Portrush was "one of the world's truly great links courses" and had a "rich golfing heritage".

Mr Dawson joked that the announcement was "the world's worst-kept secret" after news of it leaked last week.

He paid tribute to the Northern Ireland Executive for its "support and great enthusiasm".

The decision to bring the tournament to County Antrim follows the successful staging of the Irish Open in 2012.

'Wonderful news'

media captionThe announcement was welcomed by Peter Robinson (pictured) and Martin McGuinness

Simon Rankin, captain of Royal Portrush Golf Club, said it was "a great day in the celebrated history of Irish golf".

"It will be of great benefit to the club and Northern Ireland as a whole to have the game's greatest championship played here," he added.

First Minister Peter Robinson said: "This is wonderful news, not only for Royal Portrush Golf Club, but for the whole of Northern Ireland.

"The decision to bring the Open back to Northern Ireland is a tremendous vote of confidence in the game here and follows the huge success of the Irish Open in 2012, the first in European Tour history to sell out."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "This announcement will create much anticipation and excitement as the thought of our local golfers challenging for the Claret Jug on home soil is set to become a reality.

"Hosting the Open will leave a lasting imprint on Royal Portrush and I wish everyone involved in the planning and preparation every success and assure them of the full support of the executive."

'Golfer's dream'

Northern Ireland's major winners Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke led the calls for the Open to return to Portrush.

Two-times major winner McIlroy said winning the Open at Portrush would be the pinnacle of his career.

"It's going to be incredible and I'm already looking forward to it," he said.

"Everyone says winning the Open at St Andrews is a golfer's dream, but to win the event at home would probably be even bigger for me."

media captionDarren Clarke talks of his pride that Royal Portrush has been added to the rota of venues to host The Open

Darren Clarke, who won the Open in 2011 is delighted that his home club will stage the tournament.

"It is wonderful for the area, for Northern Ireland and the whole of Ireland that one of the biggest sporting events in the world is coming here," he said.

"It's just massive, with pictures of Royal Portrush being beamed around the world to people who haven't seen how beautiful it is."

Graeme McDowell said that to play an Open championship in Portrush would be "something a bit special".

As it is going on a rota of courses, it means Portrush will also get future tournaments after the first Open.

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