After Europe’s stunning victory in last week’s Ryder Cup, the European Tour’s Race to Dubai continues this week with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Michael Hoey defends the title over St Andrews Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
Despite the short turnaround, three of Europe’s conquering heroes will tee it up in Scotland this week. Home favourite Paul Lawrie who secured a superb singles victory over Brandt Snedeker will receive a rapturous reception, as will Peter Hanson and Martin Kaymer, who sank the putt to retain the Cup at Medinah.
Although only three of Europe’s Ryder Cup players are in the field, José María Olazábal’s vice captains Thomas Björn, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Paul McGinley will make an appearance as will US Ryder Cup star Dustin Johnson.
Two competitions run concurrently at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Firstly, a professional 72-hole strokeplay tournament and, secondly, a pro-am competition where the lowest score between the professional and his amateur partner is taken at each hole.
The first three rounds are played over St Andrews Old Course, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie and those who make the cut play a final round over the Old Course.
Some notable celebrities are in the field this year including: swimming legend Michael Phelps, South African Olympian Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorious, Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit, Alan Hansen, Huey Lewis and Shane Warne.
Up until the turn of this century, the Dunhill Cup was a team event with countries represented by three players, facing off in round-robin group stages before the leading sides progressed to the knock-out rounds.
The Dunhill Links Championship was first contested in 2001 when Paul Lawrie was the champion. He holed a putt from the Valley of Sin to take the title by a single stroke. In the proceeding years the event has been won by some of the European Tour’s biggest stars. Padraig Harrington has twice been victorious and Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie, Robert Karlsson and Martin Kaymer have all been champions.
In last year’s competition, Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey held off the challenge of his countryman Rory McIlroy to win by two shots with an impressive four-round total of 266.
Venue: Old Course St Andrews, Carnoustie & Kingsbarns, Scotland
Date: October 4-7
Course stats: Old Course – par 72, 7,279 yards; Kingsbarns – par 72, 7,150 yards; Carnoustie – par 72, 7,412 yards
Purse: €3,879,000 Winner: €617,283
Defending Champion: Michael Hoey (-22)
Thursday 4 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 1.30pm
Friday 5 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 1.30pm
Saturday 6 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 1.30pm
Sunday 7 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 12.30pm
Louis Oosthuizen – The South African won his Open Championship over the Old Course in 2010 and he was fifth in this event last year. He’s won twice on the European Tour this season and will be looking to secure a hat-trick of victories this week.
Thorbjorn Olesen – He’s proved himself to be an excellent player in 2012 with a victory in Sicily and five further top-10 finishes. With a good performance in the Open championship (tied ninth) he also showed he can play on the links.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano – The Spaniard won on his last European Tour outing in the BMW Italian Open, he was tied fifth the week before in Holland. He’s a streaky player and could well keep his good run going this week.
Key hole: 17th Old Course. The most famous hole in world golf, if the competition is tight as the leaders reach the Road Hole for the final time this is where it’ll be won and lost.
Skills required: Dealing with the conditions on the east coast of Scotland in early October can be testing. The winning professional will not let the weather put him off.
Adaptability – Three courses means the players will have to answer the different questions posed by each. Plus, they’ll have to deal with partnering an amateur golfer.
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