Ryder Cup Stars Looking Forward to Perfect Week at Dunhill Links
Spending a quiet few days at the Home of Golf has been prescribed as the perfect respite from the sensory maelstrom and hype at Le Golf National for four of last week’s Ryder Cup players. Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, and defending champion Tyrrell Hatton are the marquee names competing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship from St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
This annual celebration of links golf features a pro-am format that draws a wide variety of notable names, many of whom return each year. For Tony Finau, the likeable American who produced a rare moment of positivity for Jim Furyk on Sunday with a crushing victory over Fleetwood in the singles, Tuesday was his first time playing the legendary Old Course. Walking in the footsteps of history and charting a path around the ancient layout was a joyful experience.
“It was everything I hoped and more. It is always a humbling experience to be at the Home of Golf, so to have played today was spectacular for me and I enjoyed it. The way the golf course lays out and it is a tournament I have watched, as well as The Open Championship here, so I was familiar with a few of the holes but it was nice to be out here and see them. It was really cool, the finishing hole is incredible and I look forward to playing this week.”
Regular visitors to the Auld Grey Toon will be aware that the Old Lady only truly bares her teeth in a breeze, and that was the challenge presented to the World Number 17 during his practice round, introducing him to the intricacies of this uniquely charming course with seven double greens and 112 cavernous bunkers.
“I’m happy I came out because you’ve got to know where to hit it when the wind blows. It’s obviously an incredible golf course and wonderful venue, so I look forward to playing it again later in the week,” added the 29-year-old who recorded a top ten finish in July’s Open at Carnoustie.
“I have heard so much about the event – how great it is and being here at the Home of Golf, playing golf courses that are just incredible, and these courses are on my bucket list. So, to be able to come and play is going to be a lot of fun.”
For Tommy Fleetwood, who formed a now famous partnership with Francesco Molinari in France, venturing to the east coast of Scotland is the antidote to those whirlwind days in the outskirts of Paris.
“I think it's the perfect kind of week to follow,” the popular 27-year-old said. “St Andrews is my favourite course, and one of my favourite places to come to.” Last season’s Race to Dubai champion also found Carnoustie to his liking 12 months ago, when he shot a course-record 63 on the fearsome championship links, taking full advantage of the softer conditions that can make these seaside layouts more receptive without the protection of the blustery October winds.
England’s Tyrrell Hatton – who secured a point for Thomas Bjorn’s team on his debut - has enjoyed remarkable success in the East Neuk of Fife, winning in 2016 and 2017, and returns seeking a unique hattrick in the company of ex-footballer Ruud Gullit, with previous amateur partner – the actor Jamie Dornan – absent this year.
“It’s definitely more relaxed than other weeks, which I guess helps me. I enjoy the golf courses and obviously winning here the previous two years, it's great to be back. I feel like my game is in a good place. I'll be trying my best this week to make it three in a row.”
Three-time major champion Brooks Koepka has been confronted with a troublesome series of headlines in recent days, following his errant tee shot on Le Golf National’s sixth hole on Friday causing a severe, life-changing injury to a spectator at the Ryder Cup. It was an incident that has understandably left the American “heartbroken” with the woman reportedly left blind in one eye. During the messy and contentious aftermath of the United States defeat, the US Open and PGA champion later denied media stories regarding an apparent altercation between himself and world number one Dustin Johnson.
Handling those tough questions, the 28-year-old is nonetheless excited to be back at the cradle of the modern game, which served as the platform for his early professional success.
“I love Scotland. It's where my career, I guess, kind of jumped off. It was my first start on the European Tour. It's where my final win was on the Challenge Tour. It kind of brings back all those memories. St Andrews is my favourite place to play golf. I've said it before in different press conferences or wherever someone might ask, where my favourite place to play is, it's always St. Andrews. No question about it.
"I love how the design; there's always a bunker in play. Every time you play, it's always a little bit different. There are so many angles you have to work from the green back. It's a beautifully-designed golf course. It's so much fun to play, and kind of a shame we only get to play it twice. I'm really looking forward to this week.”
The autumnal fairways of Fife and Angus may be a world away from the hectic stadium atmosphere of the Ryder Cup, but it’s clear that is exactly what these players are looking for.
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