Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler may not have had the outcomes they wanted had hoped from their Open Championships this year but the American stars have both backed a swift return to Royal Portrush.
Spieth, who raised the Claret Jug at St Andrews in 2015, did not fare well in the bad weather conditions of Sunday’s final round on the Antrim coast, a six-over-par 77 sending him back 12 places on the leaderboard to a finishing position tied for 20th. Fowler claimed his third top-10 finish at the Open Championship with his three-over 74 good enough for a share of sixth place but was left smarting at finishing 10 shots behind champion Shane Lowry.
Yet neither of the US Ryder Cuppers had a bad word to say about the links at Royal Portrush. Spieth, a three-time major champion, is already planning a return visit.
“It was amazing, I hope it’s on the rotation,” Spieth, 25, said of the R&A’s list of chosen venues for the Open.
“I enjoyed the golf course. It played tough and fair. It was scorable yesterday and maybe the afternoon before. And they had it today it was really, really tough and showed its teeth.
“In the town itself, the people were top-notch. This tournament they always are. Here and Augusta are my two favourite events in the entire world, and it never disappoints. And it didn’t here. It was awesome.”
The R&A will return to Royal St George’s, the scene of Darren Clarke’s 2011 victory on the Kent coast at Sandwich, next year before the 150th Open is staged at the Home of Golf, St Andrews, in 2021. Hoylake on Merseyside has already been announced for 2022 with Muirfield near Edinburgh expected to get the nod for the following year, giving Portrush the first opportunity of a swift return in 2024.
Fowler, 30, played the Irish Open at Royal County Down in 2015 as well as being a regular competitor at the Scottish Open but Portrush, he felt, was something else again.
“I’d love to have to be back,” Fowler, the world number 14, said. “I think this golf course is a great test. It’s very different from what I’ve seen from a lot of kind of traditional links golf courses. There’s a lot of more forced carries and doglegs. It does force you to play the ball in the air a bit more and test your ball-striking. You can’t just get away with scooting one out there or running one into a green.
“To score well you have to fly balls on to the green in a lot of areas. And when it’s windy like this, it’s hard to control the ball through the air.
“It’s a great test. We got over here on Saturday, had a great time hanging in the town of Portrush Saturday night, Sunday night, had some dinner down there. Really good people. The fans have been amazing here. They’ve been super excited to have the Open here.
“I don’t see any downfall ... the weather turned out to be better every day than it was supposed to be. I don’t see any negative of it being back here.”