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(AP Photo/Peter Morrison) Darren Clarke at Royal Portrush with the Claret Jug last summer.
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Portrush named as 2012 Irish Open host... and Carton House picked for next year
Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell will be pleased with the news…

Updated 7.30pm

EUROPEAN TOUR CHIEFS have today confirmed the worst-kept secret in sport; Royal Portrush will host the 2012 Irish Open.

The Antrim course beat competition from Carton House but the Co Kildare venue will host next year’s tournament, officials say.

“We are delighted to welcome the Irish Open back to Carton House in 2013 and look forward to hosting some of the world’s top golfers,” said David Webster, Carton House general manager.

“We will be spending the next 18 months preparing for the staging of Ireland’s leading championship and believe the offering here at Carton House, which is renowned for its stunning landscape and leading facilities, will be sure to please both players and visitors.”

Portrush meanwhile can look forward to its first Irish Open since 1951. It will take place from 28 June to 1 July next summer.

The news has been welcomed by major winners Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell who are both affiliated with the famous course.

“Royal Portrush will be awesome for the Irish Open. It’s as good a test as we play anywhere. Brilliant news — big crowds, please,” he wrote on Twitter.

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Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion who himself grew up in Portrush, said: “It has always been a dream of mine to play a top event in my home town.”

Rory McIlroy has already made himself available for the tournament, which has yet to find a title sponsor, and expressed his delight at the decision. “The course holds great memories for me; from watching my dad play in the North of Ireland there as a toddler to playing in it myself as a 15-year-old and shooting a course record 61. It’s a superb set-up and players new to the course are going to love it.”

Three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington described the announcement as “an inspired move”, adding: “The Northern Irish public love their golf, always turn out in great numbers, and I’m sure will generate a great atmosphere. In addition, it is the perfect place to play links golf in the build-up to the Open Championship and I eagerly look forward to taking part.”

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