Open at Portrush a ‘distinct possibility’

Darren Clarke might be making his 500th European Tour appearance in his 12th Masters this week but he’s hoping Royal Portrush gets a bit of Irish luck and the British Open makes its way across the Irish Sea, a prospect that grows stronger by the day.

Open at Portrush a ‘distinct possibility’

The 45-year-old makes his home in the Co. Antrim seaside town these days and as he sheltered from the thunderstorms that forced officials to evacuate the patrons from Augusta National and close the gates for the first time since 2003, he turned his thoughts to a possible British Open tilt on the Dunluce Links in 2019.

First Minister Peter Robinson remarked last week that negotiations with the R&A were now well beyond the preliminary stages. And Clarke agreed that such positive talk about the Open returning to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951 was more than just idle chitchat and can only help the cause as the wave of positive energy grows by the day.

“It does,” he said, smiling wryly. “But I’m not at liberty to disclose any information.”

Egged on to spill the beans, he said: “Yes, I do, I have got information. It’s a distinct possibility. It’s not finalised, it’s not done but it’s a distinct possibility. It’s got a good chance. They’re negotiating hard.”

As for the Masters, Clarke is making just his second appearance at Augusta National since 2007 and his first in good health for seven years.

Injured in 2012, when he returned as British Open champion and shot rounds of 73 and 81 to miss the cut by five shots, he did not even travel last year after injuring himself playing tennis with his kids in the Bahamas.

“It’s good to be back and feeling 100%,” he said, explaining that his putting has held him back this year. “The kids are at school, so at least there was no chance of doing myself any damage playing tennis.”

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