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Golf Roundup: R&A chief dashes Northern Ireland's hopes of being Open host

The SportsXchange

The Irish Open was a huge success when it returned to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1953, but chief executive Peter Dawson of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews last week said Northern Ireland will not be host to the Open Championship anytime soon.

While O'Grady praised the effort of organizers at the Irish Open, which was sold out every day four weeks ago, he warned them not to expect anything to come from it.

"(Royal Portrush is) a favorite of mine, wonderful golf course, wonderful challenge," O'Grady said before the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. "And it's great to see how successful the Irish Open was and particularly the enthusiasm from the spectators in that part of the world.

"If you were at the Irish Open and compare it with what we're doing here (at Lytham), we're talking 20,000 grandstand seats, and there I doubt they had 2,000 at the Irish Open. You're talking about a tented village here I would estimate 10 or more times the size it was at the Irish Open.

"And the crowd size at the Irish Open, whilst it was very good, was only as good as perhaps the lowest crowd we expect at an Open venue, i.e. Turnberry."

The Open Championship has been held in Ireland only once, when Max Faulkner of England won at Royal Portrush in 1951.

O'Grady warned Irishmen not to hold their breath because of the cost it would take to bring what is considered perhaps Ireland's best course up to speed for the third major of the year.

"The practice ground would need a lot of work at Portrush, in my own estimation," O'Grady said. "And we don't have a finishing hole that would have the grandstands around it. There would be much work to do for an Open to go to Portrush.

"A huge amount of money would need to be spent, in my estimation, to make Royal Portrush a sensible choice. That's not a criticism of Royal Portrush -- it's a wonderful golf course -- but the commercial aspects of it are quite onerous.

"It's going to take some time to come to a view, and the view may be no."

Irish hopes to once again land the Open have been raised in recent years with Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke claiming major titles.

It took O'Grady only minutes to put a damper on them.

--When Darren Clarke returned the Claret Jug to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews last week, it was in need of a little repair.

And Clarke wasn't telling why.

"It's not quite in as good a condition as I received it in," said Clarke, who captured the trophy by winning the Open Championship last year at Royal St. George's. "It's been here, there and everywhere. But Mr. (Peter) Dawson (of the R&A) looked at it and said, 'Oh, we can fix that, we can fix this.' So it's not too bad.

"I didn't drop it -- not in my possession. I shall say no more. It was nothing to do with me. (But) it's not that bad."

The Claret Jug, one of the most iconic trophies in golf, has been filled with many a libation by golfers celebrating with friends and family after winning the oldest championship in the world.

Surprisingly, not by Clarke, a man known for enjoying a stiff drink.

"It is just too special a trophy," said Clarke, who appeared to have a hangover when he showed up bleary eyed at his press conference the day after winning the Open Championship.

"I have so much respect for the Open championship, and I couldn't get myself to do it. I thought about it a few times, but I couldn't get myself to do it. I don't need to have a jug to drink out of."

--Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., which has played host to the PGA Championship four times and the U.S. Open on three occasions, is hoping to land another major championship.

Club officials have their sights on the 2020 U.S. Open.

"Everyone knows we've been trying for the U.S. Open," said Nick Sidorakis, general manager at Southern Hills. "The next open date is 2020, so it's really in their hands to make a decision on what they want to do, them meaning the USGA."

The course has given golf fans compelling championships and notable champions.

Southern Hills, the first course to be host to the PGA four times, last was the site of a major when Tiger Woods captured the final major of the year in 2007. In the other PGAs held there, Nick Price claimed the Wanamaker Trophy in 1994, Raymond Floyd won in 1982 and Dave Stockton captured the title in 1970.

Its three U.S. Open winners were Retief Goosen in 2001, Hubert Green in 1977 and Tommy Bolt in 1958.

"The U.S. Open site selection process is a long one, typically six to eight years, and the competition to host the U.S. Open is very steep," said Dan Hubbard, the United States Golf Association's assistant director of communications.

"Regarding past U.S. Open sites such as Southern Hills, it is important to note that the circumstances and the interest of host clubs are constantly changing, with ever-evolving memberships and boards influencing the decision on whether to seek to host a major championship such as a U.S. Open."

Southern Hills also was host to the Tour Championship in 1995 and 1996, and the legendary Babe Zaharias captured the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship there in 1946.

--Russ Cochran, the reigning British Senior Open champion, withdrew from the 141st Open Championship last Thursday before his 11:53 a.m. tee time, allowing second alternate Michael Thompson to play in the oldest championship in the world for the first time.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews did not give a reason for Cochran's withdrawal, but he pulled out of the U.S. Senior Open before the third round a week earlier because of a back injury.

Cochran hopes to defend his Senior British Open title this week at Turnberry.

"I just found out that I'm taking Russ Cochran's place in @The_Open," the 27-year-old Thompson, a 2008 Alabama graduate, tweeted. "All this waiting paid off. Time to get that #warriormentality #RollTide."

Thompson, who shot 74-73--147 and missed the cut by four strokes, had planned to vacation in the English countryside with his wife if he did not get into the tournament.

Ben Crane, who was the first alternate, did not make the trip to Royal Lytham & St. Annes despite saying a week earlier that he would. After tying for 13th in the John Deere Classic, Crane went home to Oregon instead of taking the red-eye flight that tournament officials provide for players going to the Open.

Crane kept his options open until Wednesday, when Robert Karlsson of Sweden withdrew, but the tournament was overbooked and that brought the field down to the normal limit of 156, so Crane did not get an invite.

"If something happens, I can always start flying private certain places," Crane said early in the week. "But if I can get in, I'm coming, as long as I can make it. They might have to call the Concorde back into service."

Karlsson said he withdrew because the state of his game was not up to the challenge of Royal Lytham.

--Anthony Kim, one of the brightest young stars in the game only three years ago before being hit by a series of injuries, will miss from nine to 12 months following surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon.

Dave Haggith, his agent at IMG, confirmed that the 27-year-old Kim sustained the injury when he tried to change directions while running during a training session in San Diego. His left foot will be in a boot for four months.

Kim, who has won three times on the PGA Tour and was a star in the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla, announced in May he would be sidelined until October because of injuries to his right elbow and left forearm. In 2010, Kim underwent surgery on his left thumb.

Once No. 6 in the World Golf Rankings, Kim was 197th last week. He made only two cuts in 10 starts this season, withdrawing from his last three tournaments because of pain in his right wrist and elbow.

Haggith said Kim probably will not be able to return to the PGA Tour before next April. In his last event, Kim withdrew after shooting 74 in the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship at the beginning of May.

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