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Volume 26 No. 229
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Royal Portrush Hopes Big Crowds Lead To More Open Championships

Royal Portrush could see record crowds as fans flock to the first Open in Northern Ireland since '51
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Royal Portrush could see record crowds as fans flock to the first Open in Northern Ireland since '51
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Royal Portrush could see record crowds as fans flock to the first Open in Northern Ireland since '51
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Open Championship tees off tomorrow at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland, and "hopes are high that the phenomenal support will help secure regular returns in the future," according to Gareth Hanna of the BELFAST TELEGRAPH. The tournament will "welcome the highest ever attendance" for the Open outside of St Andrews in '00, providing a "key indication that the Portrush pilot has been a risk worth taking." As many as 237,500 fans will "pass through the gates over the course of the week," surpassing the 235,000 who attended the event at Royal Birkdale in '17 and the 237,000 at St Andrews in '15. A record breaking 61,000 fans have "attended the four practice days at Portrush." R&A CEO Martin Slumbers said that he "hopes Portrush will be part of the 10-course Open rota 'for years to come.'" He added, "There's been a lot of talk about (taking The Open beyond Britain) and I think that's because of the success of bringing it to Royal Portrush. But we have ten courses in the pool that we use and we think they're the best links courses in the world, and we're happy with those courses. ... We are not looking, at the moment, beyond those ten courses" (BELFAST TELEGRAPH, 7/17). Slumbers' comments came after two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington said the event at Portrush is the "beginning of the Open taking its place as the Open and moving around the world." Harrington: "In my lifetime it is possible to see it being played in the Netherlands or maybe Australia" (IRISH TIMES, 7/17).

WIDE DISPARITY: ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach notes Slumbers "defended the sizable gap between purses" for the Open and the Women's British Open. The purse at Royal Portrush this week is $10.75M, with the Champion Golfer of the Year collecting $1.935M. The purse for the Women's British Open, scheduled for Aug. 1-4 at Woburn Golf Club in Milton Keynes, England, is $4.5M, with the winner taking home $675,000. That represents an increase of about $1.25M, or 40%, from the '18 women's tournament. Slumbers said that the R&A is "committed to building a 'sustainable' women's game when it takes complete control of the Women's British Open next year." Slumbers: "My ambition is to keep growing the overall performance of it and keep enhancing the status of the event" (ESPN.com, 7/17).