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Irish Open heading to Royal County Down in 2015

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The Irish Open will be contested in Northern Ireland for the second time in a four-year stretch when the event heads to Royal County Down in 2015, according to a BBC report.

The Newcastle venue hosted the Walker Cup in 2007, as well as the Senior British Open in both 2000 and 2002. Its selection as host comes over, among others, Royal Portrush, where the tournament was contested in 2012 in front of record crowds during the European Tour's first-ever sellout.

The decision to send the event to Royal County Down for the first time is one that likely sits well with Ulstermen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, who both have sung the praises of the course in the past.

"The more you play it, the more you recognize it for the class place it is," explained McDowell, who also called it "one of my favorite courses in Ireland."

McIlroy, meanwhile, has previously offered his endorsement for moving the event between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Paul Casey won last year at Carton House, while this year the tournament will remain in Ireland for a second straight year when Fota Island plays host in June.

"In my opinion, it would be a good idea to alternate between a course in the south and one in the north every second year," added McIlroy.

The 2012 Irish Open was the first contested in Northern Ireland in 60 years, and was seen as a potential building block toward bringing the Open Championship back to the country. While fans came out in droves to watch Jamie Donaldson hoist the trophy three years ago, the season's third major has only been played outside of England or Scotland once - at Royal Portrush in 1951.