The 2015 Irish Open to be staged at Royal County Down

The 2015 Irish Open is to be staged at Royal County Down, three years after Royal Portrush successfully hosted the European Tour event.

It will be the first time in 75 years that the tournament will be played at the Newcastle links course.

Royal County Down staged the Senior British Open from 2000 to 2002 and the Walker Cup was also held there in 2007.

The Irish Open was expected to return to Northern Ireland in 2015, but Royal Portrush was favourite to play host.

The European Tour has yet to provide official confirmation of the decision.

The Northern Ireland Executive provided funding in the region of £1.5m in support of the 2013 event and a similar investment will be required this time round.

"The 2013 Irish Open was a huge success and Royal County Down is another great golf course," said leading Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy.

"In my opinion, it would be a good idea to alternate between a course in the south and one in the north every second year," added the world number seven.

McIlroy's compatriot Graeme McDowell explained that the County Down course is "a very different track" from Royal Portrush.

"Royal County Down is one of my favourite courses in Ireland - it's a bit more of an acquired taste and you've got to play it a few times to find your way around those blind tee shots.

"The more you play it, the more you recognise it for the class place it is."

"I always support the Irish Open wherever it is played but it is particularly special to play at Portrush or County Down."

Welshman Jamie Donaldson won the event at Royal Portrush after a week which saw attendance records broken, with the tournament becoming the first-ever sold-out event on the European Tour.

It was the first time in 60 years that a Northern Ireland course had hosted the event.

Englishman Paul Casey was the winner at Carton House last year, while this year's tournament will be played at Fota Island.