US PGA HEADING TO ROYAL PORTRUSH?

Could the US PGA be heading to Royal Portrush? '�Russell Pritchard / Presseye
Could the US PGA be heading to Royal Portrush? '�Russell Pritchard / Presseye
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AFTER months of speculation about The Open Championship making a return to Royal Portrush it seems another major could be heading to the famous links course.

The north coast course has emerged as a surprise candidate to host the US PGA Championship if plans to stage the tournament overseas are approved. The PGA of America has commissioned a committee to look into the possibility of holding the final major championship of the season outside of the United States. The tournament will remain in the US until at least 2019, but PGA of America president Ted Bishop has admitted the search is already underway for an overseas venue.

“Royal Portrush would be a great first international major,” Bishop told Golf Channel’s ‘Morning Drive’ programme last week. “I think given the powerful effect that Irish golfers have on the professional game today, that might be a good place to start.”

Asia was rumoured to be preferred destination, but Portrush, which hosted its one and only Open Championship in 1951, now seems to be firmly in the frame. The news was welcomed by Graeme McDowell.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to play the Open there but the US PGA would do nicely,” he said. “It’s very bizarre and an amazing statement. I couldn’t believe it and read it three times. I had heard the US PGA was looking at going global, which is a very positive step forward, but I was expecting Asia, not the north coast of Ireland.

“Even if it never comes to fruition it’s a great boost to be mentioned in that breath. My brother Gary is on the greenkeeping staff there and he will have a spring in his step.

“Having three majors in America with the way the game is growing is a little too weighted. It’s the fourth major of four so taking it somewhere else would really boost the interest. Asia, Australia or Europe would really embrace it.”