Alfred Dunhill Links Championship 2016 – 13:00 at St Andrews live on Sky Sports 4
Last weeks golf
Last week saw a terrific Ryder Cup in which USA won out comfortable victors 17-11. Led by the patriotic brilliance of Patrick Reed, Davis Love III’s American outfit deservedly won their first Ryder Cup in four attempts. The 2018 edition will be held in Paris and should have an entirely different feel – Hazeltine screamed birdies and eagles – whereas Le Golf National is all about saving par.
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A losing week for the column where a brave effort from Brooks Koepka saw him finish on 3 points, ½ point behind the majestic Reed in the top US market.
Tournament History & Field
The Alfred Dunhill links has quickly established itself as one of the richest and most popular events on the European Tour schedule. This will be just the sixteenth staging of the tournament and is the tours only pro-am. Each pro is partnered with a celebrity, actor or sports-star amateur, meaning the courses are often set up to play pretty easily with generous pins setting up plenty of low scoring opportunities.
11 of the 15 winners have been British or Irish birth with Scandinavians also having fine records in this event. Last years winner, Thorbjorn Olesen, heralds from Denmark and like all past champions, has a reputation for being a fine links exponent and wind golfer.
Some golfers don’t particularly take to the event, be it due to the number of different courses used (see below), the fact they have to put up with partnering an amateur who might be at times hacking it or simply, they just don’t suit links golf.
For instance Ryder Cupper Rafa Cabrera-Bello has a terrible record, with form reading five missed cuts and a 30th in his last six visits after a T4 on his debut showing in 2009. KLM Open winner Joost Luiten has just one top 20 finish in eight visits whilst Tyrrell Hatton has started his Dunhill links career with two missed cuts.
What is noticeable about the winners from the last ten stagings is nearly all of them had a top 10 in a previous edition. This includes everyone from journeymen Simon Dyson to Oliver Wilson, to last years winner Olesen and the classy Martin Kaymer. Robert Karlsson and Michael Hoey won having previously posted a top 20, whilst the only winner not to have any decent event form was Branden Grace – who can be counted as world-class.
The field is headed by Ryder Cuppers Thomas Pieters, Lee Westwood, Danny Willet, Cabrera-Bello, Martin Kaymer and Matt Fitzptarick, whilst other star attractions include Shane Lowry, Alex Noren and South African’s BrandenGrace and Louis Oosthuizen.
Three layouts are used for the Alfred Dunhill, with each player playing St Andrews, Kingbarns and Carnoustie over the first three days before a 54 hole cut is made. Here the top 60 and ties make it through to a second round at St Andrews on Sunday to decide the overall winner of the event.
St Andrews plays to a par of 72 and a shade under 7,300 yards and is seen as the second easiest course of the three. Carnoustie can be a beast if the wind gets up and year-on-year tends to provide the sternest test of the three courses, playing 7,412 yards and also to a par of 72. Finally Kingbarns is often seen as a fairly easy test in comparison, measuring just over 7,100 yards and offering up plenty of birdie and eagle opportunities. 2012 winner Branden Grace tore Kingsbarns apart with a first round 60!
Carnoustie could play to its nickname Car-nasty on Thursday with the wind peaking at 17mph in the afternoon. Saturday is calmest – anyone playing this toughest of the three layouts on Thursday could be out of contention pretty quickly.
Kingsbarns will be breezy all week, again at its strongest on Thursday, gusting around the 20mph mark. Friday won’t be much calmer and again, Saturday will be the calmest of the three days that this layout is used.
Finally St Andrews has similar forecasts to the above two courses – with Sunday’s final round current seeing winds hit around the 12mph mark for the leading groups.
At this stage I’d say you’d like to avoid Carnoustie on Thursday, with the ideal draw seeing your player go St Andrews, Carnousite, Kingsbarns over the first three rounds. This way you’d avoid the toughest course on the windiest day, yet still play the easiest course on the calmest day.
Recent Alfred Dunhill Championship Winners & Key Stats
2015 Thorbjorn Olesen (-18) – DA 52 DD 32 GIR 6 PPGIR 8
2014 Oliver Wilson (-17) – DA 38 DD 2 GIR 40 PPGIR 58
2013 David Howell (-23) – DA 51 DD 14 GIR 4 PPGIR 5
2012 Branden Grace (-22) – DA 53 DD 32 GIR 10 PPGIR 12
2011 Michael Hoey (-22) – DA 60 DD 29 GIR 14 PPGIR 6
As indicated above, fine links and wind exponents tend to go well here, with leaderboards littered with British, Irish and Scandinavian golfers. As with any low scoring event, having a hot putter is a near necessity if your selection is to avoid losing ground on the field. Three putt avoidance will also be key, on some of these large, wind exposed, undulating greens.
On the face of it this weeks first pick doesn’t have great links pedigree. A T8 at last years Irish Open is the best display the two-time ET winning youngster has mustered up on any links layout he has come across during his short career to date. But given the windy forecast and the fact he won the Nordea Masters this year on an exposed layout in which the wind blew, I’m willing to take a chance at an inflated price that Fitzpatrick can excel this week. Not playing a big part in last weeks Ryder Cup, I don’t think being on a losing side will impact as much as it would say a Westwood, Kaymer or Willett, and I expect a strong performance this week from one of the tours brightest lights.
The experienced Dane has had a marvellous eighteen months, including winning last years Irish Open. Since then, Kjeldsen, who finished inside the top 10 at this years Open Championship, has had numerous other high finishes, including a recent T8 at his home tournament last month. Throw in the the fact he is a mighty fine golfer when the wind blows, plus the fact he registered a T9 in last years Alfred Dunhill links, and he was an obvious pick for me this week.
“Can I just say wow! Not sure I’ve ever seen anything like this. So cheesed off to be sitting here in the couch. Want to be out there” – safe to say the hero of Celtic Manor in 2010 was pretty disappointed to miss out on last weeks Ryder Cup battle. GMac finished T19 in this event last year after sitting out the previous three editions. Previously he’d registered a T3 in 2011 and has made the cut on each of his last six outings here. McDowell has had a quiet season and hasn’t registered a top 3 finish anywhere in 2016 – something he has managed to achieve at least once for the past decade. Two MC’s and a T42 in the Fed Ex Cup final series wasn’t anything to shout about but there have been glimpses over the past few months – mainly on tough layouts – including a T10 at the Scottish Open and T18 at the US Open. Expecting a big late season push, the tough forecast this week should be right up his street.
Another of the 2014 Ryder Cuppers to miss out last week, Welshman Donaldson has had a tough time of it since winning in Thailand at the back end of last year. Since a T10 at this years Irish Open staged in May, he’s managed a best finish of T26 and missed eight cuts. There are signs of life though, and recent rounds of 71, 72, 71, 69, 68 show signs of a return to form. Donaldson holds a fine record at this event with three finishes of T13 or better in his last seven outings here. 65th in the Race to Dubai, he needs a big end of season push to make the final series.
First Round Leaders (FRL)
Any fancies in this market will be posted on my twitter handle @herefordrich once the draw has been completed.
Prices correct at time of writing.