Padraig Harrington was amazed by the size of the Irish Open galleries on a Tuesday. An Open Championship at Royal Portrush is not out of the quesiton for the Dubliner. Photo Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.iePadraig Harrington is convinced that the return of the Open to Royal Portrush is “more of a reality than we think” following what he described as the “inspired decision” to bring the Irish Open to the Northern Ireland for the first time in 59 years.

The two-time Open winner has been blown away by the Co Antrim track for this week’s Irish Open sell-out.

And while he admits he’s not sure if it can handle the massive demands the Open would place on the local infrastructure, he’s certain that political problems, fan support or the golf course won’t be a stumbling block to seeing the games’s oldest major return for the first time since 1951.

Asked about the 12th of July parades that could clash with a possible Open staging in Northern Ireland, he said: “It’s an awkward date but we’re bigger than that now.”

The R&A will be keeping a close eye on the success of this week’s Irish Open with a view to a potential Open return for the first time since 1951.

And Harrington reckons Portrush can handle it, insisting: “The golf course is ready… I’m sure if they said The Open was coming here, literally, they’d move mountains to make sure it was a success.”