Darren Clarke has admitted he will be “raring to go” when the Irish Open comes to his home Royal Portrush Golf Club in precisely 30 days’ time.
The Portrush resident and Honorary Member of the club will take the next four weeks off to finally rid himself of a troublesome groin injury which flared up again last week during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and will next strike a ball competitively when he tees up in the first round of the Irish Open on Thursday June 28.
Speaking during the official Irish Open Media Day at Royal Portrush, Clarke said: “Everyone who knows me knows that I have been looking forward to the Irish Open on my home course ever since it was announced, in January, that it was coming back here.
“Now the fact this injury means I won’t play officially until I tee up on the Dunluce Course in a month’s time means I will really be raring to go. Everyone in Northern Ireland is counting down the hours for this championship to start, and I’m one of them.”
Joining Clarke at the top table for the Media Conference was Northern Ireland Tourism Minister Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland Tourist Board Chief Executive Alan Clarke, Royal Portrush Golf Club Captain John Moss and Richard Hills, The European Tour’s Ryder Cup Director.
Tourism Minister Foster said: “Excitement is really starting to build around the Irish Open as the clock ticks down to the tournament at the end of June. I know our three Major winners are looking forward to showing their fellow professionals what makes golf here so special and I’ve no doubt that those playing Royal Portrush for the first time will be hoping a little bit of the Northern Ireland ‘magic’ rubs off on them.
“The Northern Ireland Executive is committed to ensuring that the Irish Open at Portrush will be a success. With tens of thousands attending the Irish Open, and millions of golf fans watching on their television sets all over the world, we have never had a better opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland to potential international investors and tourists.”
The Irish Open was last staged in Northern Ireland in 1953 when Scotsman Eric Brown won at the Belvoir Park Golf Club in south Belfast and will be the tenth time in total, although the first since the birth of The European Tour in 1972
Royal Portrush has staged the championship on three previous occasions; the first in 1930 when Englishman Charles Whitcombe triumphed; the second in 1937 when another Englishman Bert Gadd won and, most recently, in 1947 when the legendary Irish professional Harry Bradshaw took the first of his two Irish Open titles, the other also coming in the north at Belvoir Park in 1949.
The new venue for the 2012 Irish Open will continue to focus the attention of the golfing world on Northern Ireland which has enjoyed a glorious spell at the pinnacle of the game over the last two years; following on from the ground-breaking achievement of three Major Championship victories in 13 months by Ireland’s Padraig Harrington in 2007/2008.
Graeme McDowell set the ball rolling in June 2010 with his memorable victory in the US Open Championship at Pebble Beach before handing the trophy over 12 months later to Holywood’s Rory McIlroy, following his astonishing eight shot victory at Congressional Country Club in June 2011.
The Major Championship baton was then passed to Clarke himself, who provided an emotional and memorable Open Championship victory at Royal St George’s in July 2011.