One of the biggest prize funds outside of the majors is up for grabs on the European Tour, as a mammoth field goes to post for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
This is an event hyped as a celebration of links golf held across three courses (St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns – the first named is the only track played twice).
The ability to play links golf is obviously a must, but with amateurs playing alongside professionals the three venues aren’t set up as they would be for, say, an Open Championship, and the biggest obstacle for players can be the elements – rain is forecast and blustery conditions can be a factor.
The roll call of champions is a mixed bunch, but, tellingly, all of the past five winners had already been victorious that season, with three of those five winning on their previous start.
Stephen Gallacher, 33/1, fits the bill of a player who has already won this term (the high class Dubai Desert Classic) and to promote his claims of another success this week he can also boast victory in this event – securing success back in 2004.
He’s come close to winning again, when seventh in 2005 and fifth last year, and perhaps should have added to his 2013 haul the last time the European Tour rolled into Scotland – in August when he was second in the Johnnie Walker Championship before losing out to Tommy Fleetwood in a play-off.
There’s no doubt a back problem affected him at Gleneagles; stating after the loss, “If you had given me a play-off on Monday, I would have been quite happy.” And it was no surprise to see him withdraw from the Wales Open the following week. However, ninth in Switzerland a fortnight ago suggested he is fit again and ready to win.
Joost Luiten has won twice this term, most recently on his last appearance when he claimed his national open in the Netherlands, making him a tempting pick at 25/1 with Ladbrokes.
There won’t be as much pressure on his shoulders this week and there’s no reason he cannot win again – especially as he finished 68-65-68 in this event just two years ago.
Ross Fisher hasn’t won this term but is playing his best golf for some time, and current form of fifth, and in Holland last time out, third, persuades me to back the former Ryder Cup player.
A terrific links player on his day, 25/1 shot Fisher was second in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2008.
My three off the tee – Gallacher, Luiten and Fisher.