While this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – a pro-am event played over three courses in Scotland – might seem something of a wind down after the high intensity of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, a check of the purse quickly changes that line of thinking.
We may not be in Rolex Series territory whose events offer $7m purses but there is still a hefty $5m up for grabs at the Alfred Dunhill Links and that’s over twice as much as a standard European Tour event.
In short, gamers in long-term formats have to give this one their full attention.
As is the norm, players and their amateur partners play St. Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie over the first three days before those who make it through get a second dose of the Old Course in Sunday’s final round.
Weather will dictate how low the scoring gets although set-ups will be friendly given the amateur element this week.
St. Andrews – Par 72; 7,318 yards
Carnoustie – Par 72; 7,394 yards
Kingsbarns – Par 72, 7,227 yards
There’s been very small increases to the yardages at St. Andrews and Carnoustie. Green speeds will be slow in the event of strong winds while the usual links tests of being able to play a ground game and keeping out of the pot bunkers always applies. Fans of quirk will always enjoy that the Old Course has 14 par 4s.
Winning scores, winners and stats
2018 -15 Lucas Bjerregaard (DD: 3, DA: 19, GIR: 3, Scr: 11, PA: 20)
2017 -24 Tyrrell Hatton (DD: 59, DA: 39, GIR: 1, Scr: 32, PA: 1)
2016 -23 Tyrrell Hatton (DD: NA, DA: 27, GIR: 10, Scr: 11, PA: 20)
2015 -18 Thorbjorn Olesen (DD: 32, DA: 52, GIR: 6, Scr: 87, PA: 8)
2014 -17 Oliver Wilson (DD: 64, DA: 89, GIR: 64, Scr: 1, PA: 95)
2013 -23 David Howell (DD: 68, DA: 93, GIR: 10, Scr: 32, PA: 8)
Notes: Bjerregaard hit it a long way but, generally, what you do off the tee isn’t too important. Four of the last five winners were in the top ten for GIR while strong putting has also been a factor most times.
Thursday shows rain and winds of up to 14mph in the early afternoon while it’s mixed conditions over the final three days. Expect the woolly hat look for the early starters as the mornings will be cold. It’s Scotland so winds are certainly part of the deal although they look steady rather than extreme.
The Leading Contenders
While it’s not quite as important as the elusive green jacket, McIlroy’s lack of a win at the Home of Golf clearly bugs him. He’s a three-time runner-up in this event (2009, 2011 and 2014), was third in 2007 and also took third in the 2010 Open at St. Andrews. Those near misses in this event have come alongside his Dad and Rory loves the atmosphere. Tied ninth at Wentworth last week and shot just one shot higher than winner Danny Willett over the final 54 holes.
The Spaniard lamented some “stupid mistakes” in Sunday’s final round at Wentworth but to shoot 17-under and finish runner-up on his first start there was a superb effort. He’ll also be making his first start in this event but Rahm is a two-time winner of the Irish Open (2017 and 2019) and gives the feeling that he could take these soft set-ups apart. Ranked 2nd in the All-Around at Wentworth.
It’s Justin and Justin this week, with a certain Mr Timberlake partnering Rose. The World No. 4 warned us of a knee problem going into Wentworth last week although it didn’t seem to have much of an effect as he took solo eighth. Rose can be a bit hit-and-miss on the links as shown by his last three starts in this event (MC-2-66). But they were a while ago and he’s finished second and sixth (St. Andrews) in the last two Opens held in Scotland.
He’s played this event every year since finishing fifth on debut in 2011 and it’s easy to see why the Englishman keeps coming back. Fleetwood loves this week and has since added a pair of second places in 2014 and 2017. He also shot a course record 63 at Carnoustie when T25 in 2017. Seven of his eight finishes here are in the top 25 although this year’s Open Championship runner-up was a little subdued at Wentworth with T60.
A first return to competitive links action since his dream victory in the Open at Royal Portrush. Lowry has enjoyed this event too, with third in 2013, sixth in 2014 and a trio of top 25s from 2016-2018. After a month off, he returned with a strong T11 at Wentworth, playing his best golf on the weekend (69-66) and ranking seventh for GIR.
After putting another big trophy in the bag – his win at the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday added to the Masters, the Dubai Desert Classic and the DP Tour Championship – Willett will look to ride the wave in Scotland. He was runner-up in this event back in 2010 and also cracked the top five in 2012 while he showed his links credentials with T6 at Royal Portrush in July. Ranked 2nd for GIR at Wentworth.
One of the Americans intent on broadening his horizons, Finau pegged it up at Wentworth last week and was going nicely for the first two days before a poor weekend (T51). He had better fortunes on his first start in this event last year, finishing T10, and he’s also posted T9 and T18 in the two Open Championships he’s played in Scotland. Finau fared even better in this year’s claret jug bid, taking third and finishing as top American at Royal Portrush.
Started last week’s BMW Championship all guns blazing but followed his R1-leading 65 with three modest laps to drop to T41. That followed third at the KLM Open. Wallace has finished T59 (2017) and T28 (2018) in his two starts at the Alfred Dunhill Links and was T14 in this summer’s Scottish Open so is starting to work links golf out. That said, others in his price bracket are far more proven on this sort of turf.
Won this event back-to-back with a combined 47-under in 2016 and 2017 so immediately jumps off the page. He looked set for a threepeat in 2018 but stalled in the final round and finished runner-up. While his tournament form is sensational, Hatton missed the cut by a distance at Wentworth (73-79) although that was after a month off. Reminded us of his links skills when sixth in this summer’s Open at Royal Portrush.
RCB finished fourth on his debut in this event in 2009 but, surprisingly, he’s not finished better than T30 in seven appearances since, five of those resulting in missed cuts. It’s hard to work that one out as he enjoys links golf in this part of the world having won the 2017 Scottish Open and taken T9 in the same event in July. The latter forms part of an impressive last few months which continued with T6 at Wentworth on Sunday (6th for GIR).