Breezy Dunhill Links Presented the Best of Seaside Golf
That widely quoted adage states that if there's "nae wind, nae rain, it's nae golf". It may be a statement expressed more by tourists and visitors than native Scots, who treasure more than most a round in the warm sunshine, but there is nonetheless an element of truth to the saying, particularly when the ancient form of the game is being exhibited.
We may not have experienced substantial precipitation on the east coast of Scotland - although there was a picturesque rainbow at one stage - the breezy conditions ensured that Thursday's opening round was an ideal presentation for seaside golf at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Modern equipment and innovation has changed the dynamic of the game at the highest level, but there is nothing like a windy day on the coast to remind us of the artitstry that made those ghosts of the past Allan Robertson and Tom Morris famous in St Andrews. Rather than simply executing shots in metronomic fashion, the ability to create and strategise is required. It's a test of character. That is not to decry what we see most weeks on tour, but this something different. Organic. Timeless.
Likeable Australian Marcus Fraser and England's Matt Wallace - a star this year on the European Tour - lead the way after posting totals of 68 on Carnoustie and the Old Course respectively.
Matt Wallace's putter is on.— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 4, 2018
Exhibit A ???? pic.twitter.com/h3Vu4PkA8Z
"I just sort of stuck it out most of the day and waited for the putts to drop and at the end I made a couple of good par saves. A nice long one at the end from about 30 feet. It's brutal out there. Doesn't really matter if it's into the wind or downwind, and then you get the cross-breeze off 8 and 9," said the 40-year-old Fraser after impressively navigating the challenge of this July's Open Championship venie.
Irish veterans Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington - a two-time winner of the event - shot 69s at Kingsbarns and sit in a tie for third place alongside Phachara Khongwatmai, Jinho Choi and Matthias Schwab.
I certainly prefer to play this golf course in a crosswind," said the three-time major champion who has been tipped to succeed Thomas Bjorn as Europe's Ryder Cup captain. "I find this is very playable in a cross-wind and I was definitely, with the forecast, we knew Thursday was going to be a bad day, so when it came out that I was on Kingsbarns, I was very happy about that. It is a very playable course in bad conditions."
Reigning champion Tyrrell Hatton - seeking an incredible hattrick of titles at the Home of Golf - began with a 70 at the modern links designed by Kyle Phillips, as did world number three Brooks Koepka. Last season's Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood - a star last weekend in France - is looking forward to making a return to Carnoustie on Friday - where he shot a course-record 63 in 2017 - after a hard-fought 71 on the East Neuk layout at Kingsbarns.
Nice to kind of beat the golf course in tough conditions," said the 27-year-old who formed a now famous partnership with Francesco Molinari. "Felt like I was hitting it well. It's always tough to judge when it's so windy, but felt like I was doing a lot of good things, and just nice to kind of get a bit of a score going at the end."
Across the three courses on the rotation only 24 players in the 168 man field shot under par. With softer fairways in October and easier pins to accomodate the amatuers in the pro-am section, scoring is typically low at the Dunhill, but the wind showcased the teeth of these venues, making the bunkers of Carnoustie, the greens at St Andrews, and the exposed fairways at Kingsbarns that bit more troublesome.
This was golf as it was meant to be. And it was wonderful to watch. More of the same on Friday, please.
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