Tommy Fleetwood For Alfred Dunhill
After the euphoria of another scintillating European victory at Gleneagles, there’s more top quality action this week at The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. A star studded field is headed by Rory McIlroy and his fellow winning Ryder Cup teammates Stephen Gallacher, Victor Dubuisson and Martin Kaymer. This is one most lucrative events on the European Tour, and this Pro-Am format brings together assorted celebrities with some of the worlds best golfers, and is played over the renowned links courses of St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
Depending on weather conditions, St Andrews offers the best chance of a low score, whilst Carnoustie, the longest of the three courses, is definitely the toughest, especially when the wind blows. Kingsbarns is a very exposed track, but without any significant wind can provide plenty of birdie chances for players of this quality. Mixed weather conditions are forecast for the tournament, with stiff breezes all four days, and a chance of heavy rain on Friday. Previous winners of this prestigious event strongly indicate this is definitely a week to follow in form players with plenty of links experience.
Graeme McDowell delivered a little E/W money last week, but this week looks a different betting proposition.
From a punting angle, the obvious starting point is Rory Mac, who showed his undoubted class at Gleneagles, particularly in the singles on Sunday afternoon. He seemed to take a couple of days to get used to his new driver, but his thrashing of US show pony Rickie Fowler was sublime, and he holds an obvious chance at an event where he has already finished 2nd in 2009 and 2011, and third in 2007. He is paired with his father Gerry, who celebrates his birthday during the week, so plenty of motivation for the young starlet to give his dad a perfect birthday present .The only possible negatives are that he has played an awful lot of golf in the Fed-Ex series in the run up to Gleneagles, and he played in all five matches last week, so post Ryder Cup fatigue has to be a consideration. Martin Kaymer won this event in 2010, a few days after playing in the winning 2010 European team at Celtic Manor, so it is possible to double up, especially if you are the best player on the planet! On grounds of value alone, I will look elsewhere for some fresher proven links performers this week, but another Rory Mac golfing exhibition is entirely possible.
My strong fancy is the in form Tommy Fleetwood, who comes here off the back of three top five starts in his last five outings, including a fast finishing Tied 2nd in the Wales Open. He has a stellar links pedigree with a really solid Amateur links record, and has proven with his Tied 5th place finishes here in both 2011 and 2013, that he is well suited to this event. He has the perfect temperament to cope with this Pro-Am format, and if this really impressive ball striker can only hole a few more putts this week, he surely has to be in the mix.
Another fancy is the rapidly improving Englishman Eddie Pepperell, who is another who comes here in a rich vein of form, with his form stats from his last five starts reading 4-5-Missed Cut-4-4. The 23 year old has plenty of experience of links golf in his impressive amateur career, and finished a highly respectable Tied 26th in his debut at this event last year. He has the ability to shoot really low scores, and with easier pin positions to help the non professional players, he will certainly get plenty of birdie opportunities. He has the added incentive of a high finish will guarantee him a place in the end of season finale in Dubai, so a bold show is expected.
I have to include Victor Dubuisson, one of our Ryder Cup heroes in my staking plan. The enigmatic Frenchman was unbeaten in his Ryder Cup debut, forming a great partnership with G-Mac in the foursomes, and also halving his singles match against Zach Johnson. He is quite lightly raced recently, so should still arrive here nice and fresh, after being used quite sparingly by Captain McGinley. He finished Tied 5th here in 2012, and has the perfect ball flight to deal with the expected breezy conditions. Allez Victor!.
Of the notable others, the South African threesome of Major winners, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosterhuizen, all have plenty of course and distance form, so have to be considered in this quality betting heat.
It’s been a great week for European golf, so here are my final light hearted thoughts on the week.
1) Did the Americans think the Ryder Cup was fancy dress? Those Christmas sweaters they wore on Saturday were shockers, nearly surpassed by their Santa pants on Sunday. Call the fashion police!
2) Will the wild eyed twosome of Patrick Reed and Keegan Bradley ever play together in a future Ryder Cup- Scary!
3) Will the USA ever win again? Maybe we could just give them the morning points on Friday.