Alfred Dunhill Links Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
BILLY HORSCHEL returns to British shores for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship as he attempts win the Race to Dubai. The American, who was unlucky not to make the US Ryder Cup team, won the recent BMW PGA Championship and trails only Open champion Collin Morikawa.
He will be joined at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns by Ryder Cup stars Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, and Shane Lowry, as well as European captain Padraig Harrington and a number of players who narrowly missed out on making it to Whistling Straits, including Alex Noren, Guido Migliozzi, Bob MacIntyre, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett, Sam Horsfield, Calum Hill and Victor Perez.
Dutch Open champion Kristoffer Broberg is also in the field, along with Tom Lewis, Thomas Detry, Justin Harding, Nicolai Hojgaard, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Chris Wood, Branden Grace, Wilco Nienaber and Dean Burmeister.
The tournament was a casualty of the pandemic last year. When it was last staged in 2019 it was won by Perez, the Frenchman who lives with his girlfriend in nearby Dundee.
As he stood on the 17th tee at the world-famous Road Hole, Perez was tied for the lead with Matthew Southgate of England.
Perez found the fairway, then the green and two-putted for par. Southgate drove too far left into the rough, hit the distant putting surface with his approach but had a long way to the hole, and three-putted. And that, after both made par on the 18th, was the difference between the pair.
Perez finished the tournament on 22-under-par 266 for the 72 holes (36 on the Old Course, 18 on Kingsbarns and 18 on Carnoustie). Southgate was alone in second, one shot back, with Joakim Lagergren of Sweden and Paul Waring of England tied for third at 20 under in the race for the £750,000 first-place cheque.
Perez began the week ranked 184th in the world. He had missed six cuts, including his two most recent starts so it is fair to say that this was a surprising performance.
“This was an amazing day, very stressful,” said Perez. “I didn’t get much sleep before the final round, and I wasn’t really hungry, either. It was just a battle out there with Matt. Hats off to him. He gave me a hell of a fight. I felt like it could have gone either way. I was fortunate it was my time today. There’s nothing like a win. The confidence you gain from getting it done. It’s so difficult at this level to win. Being my first year [on tour], I’m obviously delighted.”
For Southgate there was bitter disappointment, especially as the then 30-year-old Englishman, who won the 2010 St. Andrews Links Trophy as an amateur, was looking for his first victory on the European Tour and two years later he has still to land that elusive victory. His consolation came in the shape of a runner-up cheque for £500,000, easily the biggest of his career.
“It’s been a horrible season for me, but this has sorted that right out and gotten me right back up there on the Race to Dubai,” Southgate said at the time. “That’s the goal for me, really. I’ve proven to the world that when I do switch it on, I can mix it with the best. I’ve beaten a hell of a lot of good players this week.”
Rory McIlroy had some harsh words for the European Tour at the end of the tournament.
“The set-up was too easy,” he said. “I’m sick of coming back over to the European Tour and shooting 15 under par and finishing 30th.” The Northern Irishman recorded scores of 70-66-70-67 and finished seven behind Perez.
“I don’t think the courses are set up hard enough,” McIlroy said. “There are no penalties for bad shots. It’s tough when you come back and it’s like that. I don’t feel like good golf is regarded as well as it could be. It happened in the Scottish Open at Renaissance. I shot 13 under and finished 30th [actually T-34] again. It’s not a good test. If the European Tour wants to put forth a really good product, the golf courses and setups need to be tougher.”
So you won’t be in the least bit surprised to learn that McIlroy is giving the tournament a miss this time.
Hatton is a two-time winner of this event and after what has been a pretty disappointing summer he is looking for a big finish to the season. It is no secret that Hatton operates on a short fuse, which makes his success here all the more surprising as links golf tests the golfer’s patience to the limit. Fleetwood grew up playing links golf and, like Hatton, has had a pretty poor run of form. He will be hoping that a return to Scotland will inspire him.
When the tournament was last played, MacIntyre featured on the leaderboard. A proud Scot, he would love nothing more than to deliver a victory for the home gallery at the Home of Golf.
But it is difficult to see past Horschel, especially if the weather is kind to the field. There is no guarantee of that, of course, but make no mistake - Horschel is a quality golfer who enjoys playing in Europe and he is desperate to secure the Race to Dubai.
The Old Course at St Andrews is the most iconic links course on the planet. It measures 7,310 yards and features the world-famous Road Hole. The double greens are vast and there are lots of wicked pot bunkers that must be avoided. Carnoustie is the toughest course on The Open Championship rota. If the wind blows it can be a truly brutal test. It measures 7,410 yards. Kingsbarns only open for play in 2000 but it is a spectacular layout featuring some breathtaking views and many beautiful holes. It measures 7,224 yards.
It was won in 2015 by Thorbjorn Olesen, in 2016 and 2017 by Tyrrell Hatton, in 2018 by Lucas Bjerregaard and last year by Victory Perez.
Billy Horschel finished nine in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He also won the WGC World Match Play and the BMW PGA Championship. He loves playing in Europe, although he may find Scotland in October a trifle challenging. Bob MacIntyre was bitterly disappointed to miss out on Ryder Cup selection but has proved himself to be a big-time player - and would love to win on home soil.
Billy Horschel. Class act
Bob MacIntyre. Would love to do it for the home fans
Tyrrell Hatton. Which Hatton is going to turn up?
Players to Follow:
Billy Horschel. Hoping for decent weather
Bob MacIntyre. Will feel he has a point to prove
Tyrrell Hatton. Looking for a big finish to the year
Shane Lowry. Loves links golf
Outsiders to Watch:
Jamie Donaldson. 2014 Ryder Cup hero has shown some decent form lately
Jordan Smith. Better than he thinks
Callum Shinkwin. Hits the ball a mile
Sean Crocker. Ready to make the breakthrough
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Tags: european tour