Irish Open at Royal County Down? What about a Northern Irish Open?
"But for all that I found there I might as well be "Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea."  — The Mountains of Mourne" by Percy French (1896)

"But for all that I found there I might as well be

"Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea."  — The Mountains of Mourne" by Percy French (1896)

Denmark's Thomas Bjorn insists he’s heard only rumours about an Irish Open move to Royal County Down but wonders if it’s time there was a Northern Irish Open.

The chairman of the European Tour Players’ Committee concedes that the economic climate is not right but hope that it may one day be strong enough to support tour events on both sides of the border.

On the talk of the Irish Open going to Royal County Down next year, Bjorn said: “I’ve heard rumours but they are the same rumours that everybody has heard.

“When you see what happened two years ago at Portrush, you have got to try and take advantage. But it’s also a hard thing. The first time it goes there, there was always going to be a big hype around it.

“The rumours say The Open is going to go to Portrush in 2019. Eventually the interest will decrease and with Darren [Clarke], Graeme [McDowell] and Rory [McIlroy] all winning a major championships within a few years prior to that, it was always going to be massive. 

“To be honest, in my opinion, there should be a Northern Irish Open. If there is that much interest in golf there, then there should be a Northern Irish Open. Why not?

“I think there should be an Irish Open in what is Ireland and there should be a Northern Irish Open. There is room for both in the future but it is all down to money and the money is not there."

McIlroy is in favour of moving the Irish Open to Northern Ireland "every second year" and loves Royal County Down. But just how the European Tour would manage big crowds there remains to be seen.

Asked about the logistics of Royal County Down, where the R&A limited crowds to 10,000 a day at the 2007 Walker Cup, Bjorn said: “It’s going to be hard.

“As I say, I've heard the Royal County Down rumour but then again, I also heard that Fota Island had a two-year contract. I just don’t get involved in those things. Once there’s a tournament, I am happy.”

Padraig Harrington said he’d heard nothing about Royal County Down staging the Irish Open and hadn’t been approach by the European Tour about a move to Newcastle.

“I haven’t heard a single thing,” Harrington said at the Honda Classic. “We used to play it in the Hilary Golf Society and it would be a great venue. I don’t know what the logistics would be like but the golf course would be great. The place itself is great and easy to get to.

“I have not been asked about it at all. But I think that limiting the attendance to 10,000 would be a bit of an issue.

“A Northern Irish Open? We used to have several events in the good times but if they can only take 10,000, as you are saying, then it’s a struggle. As players, we just want a place that’s busy, so maybe 10,000 is enough for us.”

Harrington also shot down talk he could be announced as one of Paul McGinley's vice-captains on March 6, insisting: "I'm still trying to qualify for the team."