Photo: Links St Andrews
Photo: Links St Andrews

It’s that time of year again where the stands tower over the 18th Green in the October sunshine, meaning the return of the Alfred Dunhill Championship. The tournament is one of the most prestigious events on the European Tour. With the prize fund being $5 million, the competition attracts some of the biggest names of world golf. The tournament is a Pro-Am played over 3 different courses: Carnoustie Links, Kingsbarns and the Old Course St Andrews. There are two separate competitions occurring at the same time, the individual professional competition as well as the pro-am team event. The players will rotate between the courses on the first three days, with the top 60 player and the top 20 pro-am teams progressing through to the final round of St Andrews. The Championship is free for all spectators for the first three days and free for students on the Sunday. There really is no excuse for not getting out on the links to watch some of the world’s best players and see some celebrity faces!

The Professionals:

Thomas Pieters: Having left Ma Bells at 2am last night with Pieters just behind me, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Ryder Cup star was on terrific form for his morning press conference. Pieters had one of the best Ryder Cup debuts in history, securing 4 points for team Europe last weekend. In the conference, he was filled with confidence for the coming week. Pieters’ made reference to his meteoric rise up the golfing rankings over the past few years stating, “It’s only been two years since I was struggling for my (tour) card and now I’m here, just played The Ryder Cup, so like I said, it went a bit fast’’. Pieters seemed remarkably relaxed and confident, saying that even the major’s are ‘’going to seem easier’’, after experiencing playing in the Ryder Cup.

Rafa Cabrera Bello: One of the best performers for Europe in this year’s Ryder Cup and another one who embraced the glory of a Tuesday night Ma Bells. He had a fantastic start to 2016, finishing runner-up in back-to-back weeks in Qatar and Dubai and 11th in the WGC-Cadillac Championship before taking the WGC-Dell Match Play comfortably in Austin, Texas.

Andrew Johnston: Universally known as ‘Beef’ had a cult following and is an extremely popular figure. The 27 year-old had brilliant performance at this year’s British Open, Us Open and the US PGA.

Matthew Fitzpatrick: The 22 year old is one of the rising stars of golf. Winner of the 2015 British Masters and a top ten finish at The Masters this year. Beaten comfortable in his Ryder Cup match on Sunday, Fitzpatrick will be looking for a positive performance this week.

Lee Westwood: If Lee Westwood could putt he would be a multi-major winner at this point. Westwood’s putter let him down again missing a crucial putt on the Sunday that changed the nature of his match. Winner of the 2003 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Westwood will be looking to make his first victory since the 2014 Malaysian Open.

Martin Kaymer: Another who played at Hazeltine in the Ryder Cup last week. A former winner of the 2010 Championship will be looking to bounce back from Ryder Cup defeat with another win here.

Danny Willett: The current Masters champion had a very disappointing Ryder Cup, made worse by his brother’s controversial and foolish comments in the build up to the tournament. The Englishman will be looking to bounce back with a better performance this week.

Louis Oosthuizen: The South African was the winner of the 2010 Open Championship here at St Andrews and second place again in 2015, Louis has had a lot of success on the Old Course.

Selected others: Brandon Grace, Shane Lowry, Paul Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els

The Amateurs

Michael Ballack: The former German international footballer was the Winner of the 2015 Alfred Dunhill championship and is making his third appearance at the Dunhill. Ballack describes yesterday that walking down the Old Course 18th fairway was like equivalent to playing at Wembley Stadium.

The 50 Shades of Grey star will definitely be one to look out for
The 50 Shades of Grey star will definitely be one to look out for

Jamie Dornan: The Fifty Shades of Grey actor described sinking a 30-footer on the 18th on the Old Course last year for eagle was the best moment in golf. Dornan is making his third appearance at the championship.

Luis Figo: The former Fifa World Footballer of the Year and Portuguese football icon makes his second appearance at the Dunhill.

Hugh Grant: Now a Dunhill veteran the popular actor returns to the links. Grant stated that his worst moment was putting into a burn from the 16th at Kingsbarns on live TV and watching his ball being carried out of the sea. Let’s hope he fares better this time.

AP McCoy: The record-breaking Irish Jockey returns to Championship following his retirement in April 2015. JP McManus, whom McCoy rode for regularly is also playing in the tournament.

Niall Horan: Niall Horan had been expected to play in this year’s tournament. Regrettable for the One Direction fans out there, Niall tweeted earlier, ‘’So sorry to @dunhilllinks that I am unable to now play this week coz of other commitments. Good luck to everyone playing!’’

Selected others: Ruud Gullit, Alan Hansen, Andy Garcia, Matthew Goode, Jacques Kallis, Ronan Keating, Brian O’Driscoll, Kevin Pietersen, Sir Steve Redgrave, Jamie Redknapp, Michael Vaughan, Shane Warne

On Saturday night, on the eve of the final day’s play at St Andrews, there will be a spectacular fireworks display on West Sands. An annual favourite for golfers and spectators alike, the display will take place at 8.25pm adjacent to the Old Course. The Dunhill management have assured me that the best viewpoint will be from the Links Road, the roadway running behind the 17th green on the Old Course or from in front of the Old Course Hotel. Acclaimed actor Matthew Goode said: ‘’It was an amazing show last year and I can’t wait to see it again. It was a fabulous end to a fabulous week. It looked like everyone in St Andrews was there watching’. Make sure you get yourself down there for a brilliant spectacle!

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