British Open to Return to Royal Portrush?

The Irish Times and other publications are reporting that the British Open will be returning to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951. Next Monday the Royal & Ancient Golf Club is set to announce that Royal Portrush Golf Club in County Antrim will host the 2019 Open Championship.

It was only a month ago that the R&A denied it would be holding the Open in Northern Ireland, saying it was "some distance" from such a commitment. The latest news reports were met by an R&A tweet that called the reports "Portrush rumours."

But a later statement was considerably more upbeat. "As part of our commitment to examine the feasibility of staging an Open Championship at Portrush, the R&A continues to discuss this at a conceptual level with Royal Portrush Golf Club and the Northern Ireland Executive," the statement read.

"Discussions have been positive but we are still some distance from being in a position to take the Open to Northern Ireland."

The R&A may be holding off on an official announcement until Monday so it falls on the first day of the British Amateur, which is being held at Royal Portrush and nearby Portstewart.

Last summer there were reports that the 2018 British Open would be held at Royal Portrush in 2018. R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said then that it is "a fantastic golf course," but concerns remained over the infrastructure required to stage a major in such a remote area. Dawson added that the current nine-course British Open rota is "about right."

Royal Portrush has been promoted as a legitimate British Open venue by some of golf's biggest names, who are Northern Irishmen. Ulstermen Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke - major champions all - have been lobbying for the course for the past several years.

Royal Portrush was the site of one British Open. In 1951, Max Faulkner won the claret jug on the famed links bordering the North Antrim coast.

Late last year the PGA of America announced it is considering periodically holding its flagship tournament - the PGA Championship - outside the continental U.S. for future events. In November, PGA of America president Ted Bishop said among the sites he was interested in was 36-hole Portrush, which boasts the Dunluce Links and Valley Links.

It's possible that the R&A will use holes from both Dunluce and Valley for the 2019 British Open. Dunluce is considered the championship venue at the famed outpost in Northern Ireland.