Lee Westwood is the first big name to express an interest in Darren Clarke’s invitation to play in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush next summer – but Tiger Woods won’t be joining him.
After his home club was confirmed as host venue, Clarke revealed that he has been inundated with requests for the lowdown on the venue for the 2012 Irish Open.
World number two Westwood has already asked manager Chubby Chandler to consider including Royal Portrush on his itinerary for 2012 but Woods won’t make the party.
“Lee will definitely look at a return to the Irish Open on the back of the decision to play the event at a golf course as good as Royal Portrush,” said Chandler.
Woods however is already committed to act as tournament host at the AT&T Championship at Congressional, the US Tour event which clashes with the Portrush dates.
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But Clarke believes other big names will follow Westwood’s lead and now take a serious look at playing the Irish Open, three weeks before the British championship at Lytham.
“I’m not going to name names but some of the biggest players in the game have been on to me since it was confirmed that the Irish Open is coming here to Portrush,” said Clarke.
“We are talking big names. They have been asking me about the course, accommodation, all sorts of things. I do hope some of them at least come and I may be asking for a few favours if I can.”
Open winner Clarke was appointed event ambassador as it was confirmed that Portrush will succeed Killarney on the Irish Open rota.
The national championship moves North for the first time since 1953 when it returns to the world renowned County Antrim links, host course in 1947.
The Irish Open will then return to the South - and Carton House outside Maynooth - in 2013 as part of the Irish government’s plans for the ‘Gathering of the Clans’ event aimed at bringing the Diaspora home as tourists.
“This is a huge day for Irish golf and for Northern Ireland,” said Clarke as the European Tour confirmed a purse worth a minimum of €2 million at Royal Portrush.
“On behalf of Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and myself, I am very proud knowing how good it is that we have the Irish Open coming to this great golf course.
“We have singing the praises for Royal Portrush for some time now. I have no doubt the course will stand up to the sternest test it can receive at the end of June and I hope that the Royal and Ancient will be here and see for themselves that this course is good enough to hold the Open championship.
“Like anything in life, you have to take small steps to succeed and this is another step in the right direction for Royal Portrush. Everyone involved will ensure we put on as good a show as possible to keep us moving down the road towards the Open.”