Having barely had a moment to celebrate and bask in Monday’s glory, nine of the successful European Ryder Cup side are back in action at this annual pro-am. No wonder, given the €5 million prize fund and superb setting, but they will do well to retain peak levels of form and focus after such a gruelling weekend. It would be no surprise to see a couple of them withdraw before the start.
Not every Dunhill Links winner has been obvious, but there have always been clues available. All had already won on the European Tour. Eight of the nine champions were from the British Isles and the exception, Robert Karlsson, won en route to the Order of Merit. Indeed, three of the last five winners topped the money list that year and the current top four are all in Scotland. Here’s my golf betting guide for this week’s action:
Course and stats
Played on three of Scotland’s finest links; Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and two rounds at St Andrews; the most important attribute is links expertise. Of course these aren’t Open Championship conditions, with layouts set up so as not to unduly penalise the celebrities, but they are still tough links tests. The rough may not be penal, but the bunkers are and most importantly, there is no defence from bad weather. With this weekend’s forecast only a little better than last, the sensible strategy therefore is to restrict calculations to players with bad weather or proven links credentials, either in this event or the Open.
3pts ew MARTIN KAYMER @ 16/1 (GENERAL)
Of all the Ryder Cup returners, Kaymer is probably the one with the greatest reason to retain his form and focus. He is clear in the Race to Dubai, and chasing third consecutive tournament victory, after the USPGA and KLM Open. Up to number six in the rankings, he is arguably the best player in the world right now; a point barely reflected by the status of 16/1 third favourite. Furthermore, Kaymer has already illustrated a love for links golf, challenging strongly for this year’s Open and losing a three-way play-off in this event two years ago.
2.5pts ew ROSS FISHER @ 20/1 (GENERAL, 22/1 PADDY POWER)
Apart from a few bad holes at the end of his singles match, few Europeans played better than Ross at Celtic Manor. Fisher belied his rookie status to take the senior role in a pairing alongside Harrington that yielded two points, and looked a man at the peak of his powers. He seems particularly well suited to playing in bad weather, winning the recent Irish Open in the rain, and has shown plenty of links prowess, also losing that play-off here two years ago.
2.5pts ew ERNIE ELS @ 20/1 (GENERAL)
Ernie should always feature on a shortlist for a links course, as his record on such layouts is unrivalled over the past decade. Surprisingly he’s never won this title, but has been runner-up twice and registered five top-seven finishes. The bad weather should emphasise those skills more than the years when this has become a less suitable birdie-fest. Ernie’s form in the States is pretty strong, finishing 13th at Cog Hill and seventh at East Lake.
1pt ew JOHAN EDFORS @ 80/1 (GENERAL)
These links conditions are very different to those in Paris, where Edfors nearly landed an 80/1 touch for this column a fortnight ago. Nevertheless, the emphasis on birdie-chasing in a pro-am are similar, and Edfors is capable of shooting very low scores. He also has plenty of bad weather form in various countries, and has made the top ten here before.
0.5pt ew MICHAEL HOEY @ 150/1 (GENERAL, 200/1 CORAL)
Here’s a plausible rank outsider with both links and bad weather pedigree. Most of Hoey’s best performances have come in wind or rain, such as when winning the 2009 Estoril Open or finishing seventh in August’s Irish Open, his third top 15 in four events. Hoey also made the top 20 here last year, despite an awful round having been in contention through 54 holes.