There’ll be no PJ Willett ‘irony’ to deal with this weekend – but the four-day, three-course Alfred Dunhill Links Championship will prove just as testing for the Europeans who had their asses kicked at Hazeltine.
Thomas Pieters and Rafael Cabrera Bello led the rookie charge Stateside and are sure to feel the love from the galleries but it’s the 7 players you’re backing this weekend that concerns us now as the pride of the European Tour ham it up with C-list celebs like Hugh Grant, Ronan Keating & Andy Garcia in Scotland.
As of noon on Wednesday – here’s where your money is going.
It has been a long time between drinks since his Johnnie Walker triumph at Gleneagles, but the 25-year-old is the form pony in this event with a record that reads 5-55-5-2-13 over the past five years
Fleetwood usually picks up some nice prizes in the early doors before his season trails off quicker than Aston Villa’s, but the English pro is on a nice run at the moment posting a T10-T7-T13 finishes in his last three starts in Holland, Italy & Germany.
On the bubble in 60th spot for the Race to Dubai rankings, he needs a big show to ensure he’s at the desert money-fest next month.
A standout-year for the Swede who saw off Scott Hend at the Omega Masters last month with a couple of Ryder Cup also-rans in his wake for win number two this season after his Scottish Open triumph in July.
A third place finish in 2012 in this contest from seven attempts is the high-water mark for the 34-year-old. Although he’s swerved the event for the past two seasons, he’s in form now and ranks 10th in the scrambling stats if the wind begins to howl.
Now officially ‘one of the best players on the European Tour’ by people who never heard of him a week earlier. And for once it wasn’t us. The Belgian Bomber won even more admirers to his already growing fan club but whether he’s quite ready to hit the heights again is another matter.
Only an 18 & MC to judge him on the Scottish links courses and its hard to imagine that going head-to-head with JB Holmes in last Sunday’s Ryder Cup singles will compare to waiting for Andy Garcia to hack it out of the rough.
What would you give to see Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston in a head-to-head against Patrick Reed in a Ryder Cup smash-up? Possibly the most popular golfer on the European Tour is about to break into the big time despite being less recognisable than Ronan Keating when posting two MC’s here in the last two seasons.
This year though ‘Beef’ has finished eighth at the Open and was third when last seen at the Omega European Open so the former Spanish Open winner has the game in his bag to back the beard. Will get more wayyyyyy more attention than some of the C-list celebrities on show this week.
Two top five finishes in his last two starts on Tour for the Austrian who can boast a top-four finish to Thorbjorn Oleson last season, to add to his two top 20 finishes previously. Not a name normally associated with a big tournament but could be a contender for the places if some of the leading fancies suffer a Ryder Cup hangover.
Has generally improved his position for the last three years with 12-14-4 finishes and if he keeps it steady, can continue his upward curve.
The 11-time European Tour winner always gets a mention when the words links and golf are combined.
Karlsson, a dual Ryder Cup member was a top player in his day and won this event 2008.
A patchy record over the three-track test since then doesn’t inspire but two top 10 finishes in his last six starts gives him a chance of hitting the places at least. And while there’s never been a back-to-back winner, sorry Thorbjorn, he could join Padraig Harrington as a dual winner if recovering some previous form.
Rafael Cabrera Bello
Spain’s latest gold sensation lost his way a little mid-season but bounced back with a pre Ryder Cup T12 at the Italian Open before thriving at Hazeltine.
Has yet to reach anywhere near the fourth place finish he posted on debut in 2009 with five missed cuts in six since. Hard to know if the Scottish climate will bring out the best in him after a draining week Stateside but could use it to ride out the high of his performance in Hazeltine.