Portrush may yet get its Open

The Open could still return to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951.

But there is a massive obstacle in the way - the R&A does not want to make the Open an all-ticket affair like the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down.

Royal PortrushBack on the rota after a 15-year absence, Turnberry passed its Open examination with flying colours after improvements to road access and other infrastructure.

Just 123,000 fans turned up during the week to watch the race for the Claret Jug compared to more than 200,000 at Royal Birkdale last year, costing the R&A over €3.5 million in lost gate receipts.

And while the R&A says it can take the financial hit thanks to its TV deals, lack of space at the County Antrim venue means that Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy might never play a major on home soil.

David Hill, the R&A's Director of Championships said: "Coming from Royal Portrush, I have to be very careful what I say here. I think the one thing I would say is you should never say never.

"Turnberry is a great demonstration of a wonderful golf course in classic links condition with about 25,000 spectators a day.

"It's taken us a few years to get the infrastructure in place but we have made it to work and I know the championship committee do like to go to new venues.

"The huge media income we have now enables us to come to Turnberry. About 10, 15 years ago, we had to go to venues where we were attracting 200,000 people a week because the income was so important to us.

"But now with new media income, it does give us the opportunity to look at other venues. Unfortunately, the infrastructure at most of the other venues that we might wish to consider is probably not quite there at this moment in time.

"It's no longer the case that we have to go to venues which attract 50,000 people a day. But equally I certainly wouldn't want to recommend we go to venues which are all ticket 25,000 people a day, because that just leads to the type of crowd that I don't think the golf wants."

Next year's Open will be played at St Andrews before moving to Royal St George’s (2011), Royal Lytham & St Annes (2012) and Muirfield (2013).

Royal Portrush is the only course outside Scotland and England to have hosted The Open. Will it get its chance to shine? It would appear that only time will tell and holding one's breath is not recommended.