Portstewart to host 2021 Irish Open when event will return to Northern Ireland

Jon Rahm holds the Irish Open trophy after his 2017 triumph at Portstewart
Spaniard Jon Rahm won the first of his two Irish Open titles at Portstewart in 2017

The Irish Open will return to Northern Ireland in 2021 when Portstewart hosts the European Tour event for the second time in four years.

The news was announced at the club's AGM on Thursday evening.

Portstewart's members were told that discussions between the European Tour and the club resulted in an agreement being finalised last week.

The Irish Open returned to Northern Ireland after a 59-year gap when it was played at Royal Portrush in 2012.

The event proved to be a huge success as it attracted a then record attendance for a European Tour event.

Three years later, the event was staged at Royal County Down before Portstewart was the host venue in 2017 when Spaniard Jon Rahm clinched the first of his two Irish Open victories.

Graeme McDowell
Graeme McDowell has been backed to host the 2021 Irish Open

BBC golf commentator and former player Maureen Madill, who is an honorary life member of Portstewart Golf Club, welcomed the announcement and backed Graeme McDowell to be tournament host.

"I grew up less than 10 minutes from the the first tee at Portstewart. It's a great course that will test the best players in the world, it's extremely scenic and you get a welcome like nowhere else," she said.

"The blueprint of what the club worked to in 2017 will be very fresh in their mind. There are likely to be a few tweaks but probably not to the course as it was beautifully presented.

"Graeme will love it as Portstewart will be set up very well for his type of game. It's very hard to be host and play as well but it has been done before and will be right up Graeme's street."

Royal Portrush's successful staging of the 2012 event helped convince the R&A to bring this year's Open Championship back to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years.

The Open is expected to return to Royal Portrush over the next decade and Thursday's news surrounding the Irish Open will help to maintain the momentum of the sport in Northern Ireland, which is also aided by Rory McIlroy's exploits around the world.

Next year's Irish Open will take place at Kilkenny venue Mount Juliet from 28-31 May.