FIRST it was Royal Portrush. Then Royal Aberdeen. Now another of the classic old links courses in Great Britain and Ireland has been lined up to host a European Tour event.
Royal County Down, where Rory McIlroy, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler all played in the 2007 Walker Cup, is to stage the Irish Open next year.
In a joint announcement, it was also confirmed that the 2017 event will be played at Lough Erne, designed by Nick Faldo but probably best known as the venue for a G8 summit last year.
Rarely visited for Tour events for a lengthy period of time, links courses are starting to become popular again.
The Scottish Open, for instance, moved to Castle Stuart for three years after leaving Loch Lomond and is now heading to Royal Aberdeen for the first time in July.
There was great excitement, too, when the Irish Open was held at Royal Portrush in 2012 and huge crowds can also be expected when it heads back to Royal County Down for the first time since 1939.
“The Irish Open at Royal Portrush in 2012 captured the imagination of the country after a lengthy absence,” said George O’Grady, the European Tour chief executive.
“Now we are delighted to confirm today that the tournament will be back in Northern Ireland next year.
“It was Rory McIlroy’s inspired suggestion to me during the 2013 BMW Masters in China that proved to be the catalyst for today’s announcement.”
Welcoming that, McIlroy said: “Royal County Down is another great links course, which I know particularly well, so I’m delighted to have the opportunity to play an Irish Open there.”