The road to Royal Portrush - What the players said
The 147th Open at Carnoustie is in the books and attention now turns to Royal Portrush, where The 148th Open will come to town in just 357 days’ time.
For the first time in 68 years – since Max Faulkner won his sole major championship in 1951 – The Open will leave Great Britain’s shores and head to Northern Ireland.
The land of 1.8million people has provided three Champion Golfers of the Year: Fred Daly in 1947, Darren Clarke in 2011 and Rory McIlroy three years later.
Clarke, McIlroy and plenty of other players have been expressing their excitement at heading across the Irish Sea in 12 months’ time and we’ve collated some of the best quotes from this week at Carnoustie.
Darren Clarke has been pivotal in championing Royal Portrush and getting the course on the Open rota, so the 2011 Champion Golfer is unsurprisingly feeling vindicated:
“It’s hard to contain the excitement now we are one year out from The Open.
“The place is buzzing. I’ve been in Portrush a lot recently and all the work is being completed, all the little touches for infrastructure that most would never imagine, with all the cabling under the ground and everything.
“It’s going to be a huge honour and privilege to have the biggest tournament in the world in our town.”
Rory McIlroy was desperate to head to his homeland with the Claret Jug in tow but after finishing in a tie for second at Carnoustie, the 2014 Champion Golfer is ready to triumph on home soil:
"The 2019 Open is something that’s been on my radar for a long time.
“I never thought I’d be able to play an Open at home. I’m going to be very proud to showcase where I’m from and to play in front of all the people who have supported me throughout my career. It is going to be really cool.
“It would have been nice to go in there with a Claret Jug but I'm excited to play an Open at Portrush. That will be unbelievable.”
Francesco Molinari will head to Northern Ireland as defending champion, so it will be an extra-special week for the Italian:
“I played there in 2012, I think it was, at the Irish Open. I still remember now I was paired for the first two rounds with Darren Clarke and he had just won The Open the year before.
“The atmosphere was something else, so I'm sure it's going to be a great championship, a great Open.
“I've heard they've changed the course quite a lot but hopefully by then this victory will have sunk in, and I'll realise what I've done!”
The 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett recaptured some form with a tie for 24th at Carnoustie this week and he was remembering his previous Portrush experiences:
“I played Portrush in the Irish Open a few years back. Great tournament and a fantastic Open venue.
“The course is old school, so there's not a great deal of room between the holes. And what room there is, is some pretty steep mounds.
“You always get a great crowd. At the Irish Opens I've played, you get fantastic crowds, so for The Open to be in Portrush will be great.”
Two-time defending US Open champion Brooks Koepka played a lot of his early golf on the European Challenge Tour but he never travelled to the Emerald Isle. However, next year’s venue will still be a special one for him:
"I've never been to Ireland. That's one place I've never been. I’m looking forward to going there and I know my caddie is.
“It’s basically his hometown, so it will be nice to get over and see some of his family and see some of his friends.
“It's going to be fun. Obviously it's a year away, so I’ve got some work to do.”
The 2016 Champion Golfer of the Year Henrik Stenson is another man who will be heading over the Irish Sea for the first time:
“It will be good. I never played golf in Northern Ireland, believe it or not. This will be my first time there.
“I've seen pictures and I’m so excited for next year. This tournament is always special, and I think it's going to be a particularly special one at Portrush.”
Englishman Chris Wood knows the crowds are going to be huge at the venue, especially with it being all-ticket, and is predicting a special atmosphere:
“We played the Irish Open there a couple years ago and I think they had over 200,000 for the week.
“That was the Irish Open – it's a huge event, but it's not a major! They obviously have a huge interest in Darren [Clarke], Rory [McIlroy], G-Mac [Graeme McDowell] hopefully and the Irish contingent.
“It's one hell of a place. I missed the cut, so I'll probably go back there before to just have another look.”This time next year, The Open will return to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years. Be part of the biggest party in golf in 2019. Get immediate access to Priority tickets for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush when you sign up today to join The One Club for free. Simply go to TheOpen.com/PortrushTickets.