Sell-out crowds, spectacular views and a course which 'ticked every box'. Why Royal Portrush is a new jewel in The Open's crown.
As far as second round auditons go, Royal Portrush delivered a spectacle that left Tiger Woods and many others asking why it had taken The R&A so long to bring The Open back to Northern Ireland.
It was a valid point, and one which Chief Exectuive Martin Slumbers confirmed to us he has no intention of repeating now Royal Portrush has been added to the 10-course Open rota.
“I think that Portrush will be used and played for the Open Championship for many years to come,” said Slumbers.
Not since 1951 had Royal Portrush played host to The Open, but they more than made up for it as 240,000 spectators descended on a town which has just north of 7,000 inhabitants.
The economic impact has been projected at over £80 million, and rumours are now gathering pace that the Open could be returning as early as 2024.
Typically, Slumbers remains tight-lipped on the subject, but what's certain is that few players will be disappointed heading back to a venue which many consider to now be one of the best links courses in golf.
What the players said...
Shane Lowry: "This is my 8th Open Championship, it was the best one I've ever played in. The way it was ran, the golf course, everybody was raving about the golf course, how good it was. So I'd be very surprised if it's not back here in the next ten years."
Jordan Spieth: “It would be amazing to continue to put this course on the rotation. I think it's awesome. No matter where the wind comes from, the easy holes play some of the hardest but they're still fair. The greens are fair, the pin placements. So it's got a lot of character to it that maybe won't be recognized by just seeing it on TV, which makes it really special.”
Rickie Fowler: “I'd love to have to be back. I think this golf course is a great test. It's very different from what I've seen from a lot of kind of traditional links golf courses. There's a lot of more forced carries and doglegs. It does force you to play the ball in the air a bit more and test your ball-striking. You can't just get away with scooting one out there or running one into a green.
“It's a great test. We got over here on Saturday, had a great time hanging in the town of Portrush Saturday night, Sunday night, had some dinner down there. Really good people. The fans have been amazing here. They've been super excited to have The Open here. I don't see any negative of it being back here.”
Robert MacIntyre: “I don't know what is better than this. It's possibly the best links golf course I've ever played on. I played here in the Home Internationals, I knew I was coming to one of best. But I think from my first Open Championship to be here, I don't think anything can top it.”
Graeme McDowell: “The golf course has been phenomenal. The R&A have done a phenomenal job here for the players and families and everyone involved, and hopefully the spectators. The golf course has been incredibly well presented. Everyone is telling me this is their favourite Open venue they've ever been to up. So many ticks in all the right boxes this week.
“I've heard the whispers as well that we could be back here as soon as five years from now. But I think with the financial commitment that Portrush have made for this, for it to get the recognition and then get back here soon, to keep that Portrush train rolling, it would be huge. Hopefully we can get back soon. It would be very, very special. This has been the perfect week.”
Shane Lowry: “I think this is one of the best golf courses in Ireland. For me, it's in the top two in Ireland. I think it's a great Open venue.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “I think it's great. The golf course is such a good major venue. I can't see anybody saying a bad word about it. Logistically, for us as players, it's been the best ever. Hats off to The R&A.”
Justin Rose: “I had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time up here, and frequent the Harbour Bar in Portrush. And I just think that people are very proud of their little piece of the world up here. And it is very special. The golf courses are unbelievable. But the hospitality I think is fantastic up here.”
Tiger Woods: “It’s just amazing it's been this long for us to come back here. It's such a great venue. Everyone who's played it, whether it's guys who grew up here or people who have come up here and just played it, they've always enjoyed it. And I can understand why. It's straightforward. It is tricky a little bit here and there, but overall it's just a wonderful links golf course.”
Lee Westwood: “The course couldn't be better. It's every bit as good as I remember when I played the Amateur Championship here in 1993. The two new holes blend in nicely and the rest of the golf course is just spectacular.”Gary Woodland: The golf course is really, really good. Obviously the views are spectacular. It's in unbelievable condition.”
Paul Casey: “This is an unbelievable golf course. The bunkering is just right. The bunkering is fair. The fairways are generous and flat where they need to be. The best green complexes I've ever seen on a links golf course.”
Alex Noren: “It's beautiful, one of the most beautiful courses I've ever seen. Tricky, fun, fun to watch for them. Fun to play for us.”
Lee Westwood: "I played here in the Amateur championship in '93 and it's a fantastic golf course. I enjoyed it then. Unfortunately, I couldn't come in when the Irish Open was here. But it's been a long time obviously coming back to Royal Portrush, and the crowds have shown that there's an appetite to have it a bit sooner than 70 years."
Webb Simpson: “I think the difference is it's more undulating than what we're used to. Most of the courses we play are pretty much dead flat. This has more undulation. So maybe a few more blind shots. But still feels very linksy. I love it. It's one of the few courses that every player who's played it that I've talked to this year, they all loved it. Usually you'll have both sides. But everybody loved it.”