Royal Portrush joins Open rota

The Royal Portrush course in Northern Ireland will host the Open Championship, potentially as soon as 2019.

A statement from the office of First Minister Peter Robinson confirmed the news that the tournament could return to the seaside links course, which staged it in 1951 - the only time it has been played outside of England and Scotland.

Royal Portrush is the home club of 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke and two-times winner Rory McIlroy has previously spoken of his desire for the major to return there.

Robinson said: "This is wonderful news, not only for Royal Portrush Golf Club, but for the whole of Northern Ireland, with an estimated combined tourism promotion and economic return of 70million.

"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.

"Today's announcement recognises that Northern Ireland not only has some of the world's greatest golfers, but some of the world's greatest golf courses."

The recent success of McIlroy, Clarke and Graeme McDowell - who between them won four major titles between 2010 and 2012 - gave the campaign a real impetus, with all three lobbying on behalf of Portrush.

There were concerns by the R&A, which administers the event, that the course did not have the infrastructure to stage the Open but those doubts were eliminated by the successful staging of the Irish Open.

Currently only nine courses, five in Scotland and four in England, are entitled to stage the Open, the oldest of the four major championships in golf.