The Open at Portrush? Clarke says "they’re negotiating hard”

The Open at Portrush? Clarke says "they’re negotiating hard”
 Darren Clarke, pictured earlier this season. Picture: Eoin Clarke  www.golffile.ie

Darren Clarke, pictured earlier this season. Picture: Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ie

Darren Clarke might be making his 500th European Tour appearance in his 12th Masters this week but he’s got his sights set on a little but of Irish luck for Royal Portrush with hopes that the Open Championship will be heading across the Irish Sea growing stronger by the day.

The 45-year old makes his home in the Co Antrim seaside town these days and as he sheltered from the thunderstorms that forced officials to evacuate the patrons from Augusta National and close the gates for the first time since Monday 2003, he turned his thoughts to a possible Open Championship tilt on the Dunluce Links in 2019.

First Minister Peter Robinson remarked last week that the Executive in Northern Ireland is now "well past the early stages of discussions" with the R&A. And Clarke agreed that such positive talk about The Open returning to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951 was more than just idle chitchat and can only help the cause as the wave of positive energy grows by the day.

“It does,” he said, smiling wryly. “But I’m not at liberty to disclose any information.”

Egged on to spill the beans after this non-denial denial, he said: “Yes, I do, I have got information. It’s a distinct possibility. It’s not finalised, it’s not done but it’s a distinct possibility. It’s got a good chance. They’re negotiating hard.”

As for the Masters, Clarke is making just his second appearance at Augusta National since 2007 and his first in good health for seven years.

He was Injured in 2012, when he returned as Open champion and shot rounds of 73 and 81 to miss the cut by five shots. But he did not even travel last year after hurting himself playing tennis with his kids in the Bahamas.

“It’s good to be back and feeling 100 percent,” he said, explaining that his putting has held him back this year. “The kids are at school, so at least there was no chance of doing myself any damage playing tennis.”