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British Open at Portrush? Don't hold your breath

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LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Last month’s Irish Open at Royal Portrush was said to be a dress rehearsal for the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews to see if the venerable track in Northern Ireland could host the British Open.

While impressed with the staging of the Irish Open, R&A chief Peter Dawson said Wednesday from Royal Lytham & St. Annes in his annual news conference “don’t expect anything imminent, that’s for sure.”

Logistics are not to the point where the R&A feels comfortable. According to Dawson, the final hole isn’t suitable for a large grandstand, the practice area needs work and the whole situation needs much more evaluation.

“It’s a favorite of mine,” Dawson said. “Wonderful golf course, wonderful challenge. And it’s great to see how successful the Irish Open was.

“If you were at the Irish Open and compare it with what we’re doing here, we’re talking 20,000 grandstand seats, and here I doubt they had 2,000 at the Irish Open. You’re talking about a tented village here I would estimate 10 or more times the size it was at the Irish Open. And the crowd size at the Irish Open, whilst it was very good, was only as good as perhaps the lowest crowd we expect at an Open venue.”

It was also made clear that this will not be a one-off situation, where the Open is played there once, then never again. If the R&A makes a commitment to Royal Portrush, it will be longterm – another reason why the decision makers are not in a hurry to make a decision.