Celebrities Hit Town for Dunhill Links

SWEATY PALMS: A very nervous Oscar Pistorius cracks a few gags at his press conference, calling his golf game, “rubbish”.

The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship tees off in St Andrews, with a star-studded field consisting of professional golfers and amateurs, with 168 of each playing a round each for the next four days.

The field is packed with stars, both professionals and amateurs, and in previous years we have seen Hugh Grant and Samuel L. Jackson among the list of names on the starters’ sheet.

There is always a distinctly multi-sport feel to the list of amateur golfers, and this year is no different. South African ‘Bladerunner’ and Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius has spent the last two months in Britain, and has delayed his holiday to swap the track for the fairways. Pistorius revealed that he is a “big golf fan and [I] love the game. I have never played St Andrews, Carnoustie or Kingsbarns before, so playing them in a world-class event is a unique opportunity. There is so much history at St Andrews. I can’t wait to get on the first tee.” He will be joined by fellow Olympian and 18-time gold medallist Michael Phelps, who took up golf after the Beijing Olympics and is being taught to play by Tiger Woods’ old coach Hank Haney. They will be joined by former Olympic rowing legends Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave, Dutch football superstars Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit, former England player Jamie Redknapp, Scottish defender Alan Hansen, a strong team of cricketers in Sir Ian Botham, Andrew Strauss, Steve Waugh and Shane Warne, and rugby’s Morné du Plessis and Gavin Hastings. From outside the world of sport, Hollywood star Greg Kinnear and rock music legends Huey Lewis and Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres are all confirmed competitors.

For residents in St Andrews, this week represents a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the world’s biggest stars around the town and on the course, as entry to the championship is free to students on all four days.

There are of course some serious golfers competing this week as well. Despite coming immediately after the Ryder Cup, several of Europe’s team will be among the top-class professional golfers competing in this celebration of links golf. Germany’s Martin Kaymer and England’s Lee Westwood both arrive hot off the plane from the Medinah Country Club, as well as Scotland’s Paul Lawrie. Westwood explained his decision to go straight back to competitive golf after the Ryder Cup: “My last Dunhill win was very important for me and it would be great to repeat that. It’s always a terrific tournament to play in and it’s on three fantastic links courses, so I am looking forward to it.” The tournament also holds an important place in Lawrie’s heart. “Winning the inaugural Dunhill Links in 2001 was a very important victory for me, and of course I know Carnoustie very well after my Open win in 1999, so I’m hoping I can have a good four days – it will be nice to play with my son Craig and relax a little after the stresses of the Ryder Cup.” Other big names include current Open champion Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, and Jon Daly, to name but a few.

With such a varied field, naturally the competition takes an unusual format. All players play the Old Course, Carnoustie, and Kingsbarns once each over the first three days, with the top 60 professionals and 20 teams playing the final round at the Old Course on Sunday. There will be two competitions running concurrently: an individual tournament for the professionals and a team competition, which will be of the lower of the professional’s and his amateur partner’s score at each hole.


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