The Open: Return to Northern Ireland 'beyond realms of possibility'

    Tiger Woods is among the field for the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

    (CNN)Not so long ago the notion of staging a huge sporting event such as the Open Championship in a land infamous for bloodshed and violence was unthinkable.

    "It was beyond the realms of possibility. It was just never going to happen," said Northern Ireland golfer Darren Clarke, a Portrush resident and Open champion in 2011.
      "Portrush had always been on the R&A's radar as a wonderful golf course," said Peter Dawson, the former chief executive of the R&A, the Open organizer.
      "Time went by and for all sorts of obvious reasons, it was difficult to bring big events to Northern Ireland."
      But the peace that has existed across the province since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 shifted thoughts back to staging the world's oldest major for the first time since 1951.
      Now, 68 years later, Royal Portrush on Northern Ireland's north coast is back on the tournament's rotation of 10 courses in England and Scotland and is set to host the 148th Open Championship, which starts Thursday.