The European Tour heads to the east coast of Scotland this week for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Robert Karlsson defends the title over the Old Course St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie.
Europe’s best face a stern examination in the event as they battle round three testing links tracks, probably in gruelling Scottish autumn conditions.
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.
The event always attracts a high-class field both professional and amateur and this year will be no different. Padraig Harrington is on the start list along with Lee Westwood, Ernie Els and Rory McIlroy. The amateur field includes Hugh Grant, Sir Ian Botham and Sir Steve Redgrave.
Last season Robert Karlsson won a thrilling tournament, coming through a playoff against Martin Kaymer and Ross Fisher. The Swede will be back in 2009 though he’s not on such stellar form as last year as he’s coming back from a long layoff after suffering eye problems.
Venue: Old Course St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, Scotland
Date: October 1-4
Course stats: Old Course – par 72, 7,279 yards, Carnoustie – par 72, 7,142 yards, Kingsbarns – par 72, 7,160 yards
Purse: €3,425,000 Winner: €530,000
Defending Champion: Robert Karlsson (-10)
Thursday 1 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 1.30pm
Friday 2 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 1.30pm
Saturday 3 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 1.30pm
Sunday 4 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 12.30pm
Graeme McDowell – After an excellent performance in the Vivendi Trophy, GMac is clearly on solid form. He’s an excellent links player and narrowly missed out on victory in this event back in 2004.
Padraig Harrington – He’s back to playing something approaching his best golf and he’s a wizard when the tour visits the links. He won the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2007 and was winner of this tournament back in 2006. He’ll be tough to beat this week.
Rory McIlroy – A third place finish in the Alfred Dunhill Links of 2007 announced the Northern Irishman’s arrival in the professional game and all but secured his playing rights for 2008. Like McDowell he had an excellent Vivendi Trophy and he’ll be looking to take that team form on to an individual stage.
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: Grit – 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.