European Tour Course Preview: Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
Following last week’s big event near London, the European tour heads north this week to Scotland and St. Andrews/surrounding area for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. This event is a Pro-Am, so the set-up will be on the easier side. Whenever we’re projecting golf in this area of the world, weather is a big factor.
Courses: Old Course at St. Andrews, Kingsbarns Golf Links, Carnoustie Golf Links
Par: 72 (All courses)
Yardage: 7,318 Yards (Old Course), 7,227 Yards (Kingsbarns), 7,394 Yards (Carnoustie)
This tournament has a similar format to the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA tour, where everybody will play each of the three courses in rotation once, then a 54 hole cut (top-60 and ties) will be made and the final round is played at the Old Course. Of the three courses, Carnoustie is the toughest, and one thing to consider this week will be weather. If there projects to be a bad weather day or two, then you may want to factor in players who won’t have to play Carnoustie on a tough day. St. Andrews is iconic and challenging when it’s windy, but players will have plenty of opportunity to score. Kingsbarns is on the easier side, as well, and depending on weather, should play similarly to the Old Course.
The Old Course at St. Andrews is obviously one of the most historic golf courses in the world, and we get to see the best players on earth play it every five years (usually) for the Open Championship. In 2015, we had Zach Johnson beating out Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman (none of whom are in the field this week) in a playoff. Going back to 2010, we saw Oosthuizen play out of his mind and win running away, but that year we had Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy coming in just behind him, so they both have some solid history at the Old Course.
Carnoustie was last seen outside of this event just last summer for the Open Championship, where we had Francesco Molinari squeaking out victory over Rory, Justin Rose, and Eddie Pepperell as far as players in the field this week. Prior to that, we saw Carnoustie for the 2007 Open Championship, where Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff.
Kingsbarns is the least prominent of the three courses, and it is not in the Open rotation so we do not see it outside of this event like the others.
Links Event History: Due to the unique format of this event with multiple courses, it’s really hard to zone in a couple specific stats as each course will play differently. So one thing that should be looked at is player performance in the big-time links tournaments played on tour. These will mostly be the Irish Open, Scottish Open, Open Championship, and this event. Players who have shown the ability to consistently play well in those events can be expected to play well if the weather becomes a major factor as those tournaments are the ones most consistently played under tough weather conditions.
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: Any courses where the likes of Rory, Lee Westwood, and Tommy Fleetwood play well, I’m thinking that driving the ball well can be advantageous. Last year 4 of the top-5 in SG:Off-the-Tee placed T7 or better (Julien Guerrier the odd man out finished 32nd). Carnoustie especially is demanding off the tee, and players finding those fairways will be at a huge advantage, as we saw at last year’s Open.
Field Preview and Event History
This event has a strong field as many elite players are in the area following last week’s event at Wentworth. Rory headlines the field. He narrowly made the cut last week then finished strong on the weekend to gain another top-10 on the season. Last week’s runner-up, Jon Rahm, is in the field and making his event debut. He's a solid links player in his own right with two Irish Open victories to his name in his young career. Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and last week’s champion, Danny Willett, are other notables. Tony Finau is the lone American PGA tour regular who stuck around for this event following Wentworth. He had a top-10 showing last year in his debut at this event.
There are a couple players who seem to pop every year at this event, and you have to start with Tyrrell Hatton. Hatton has gone T2-1-1 the last three years at this event, which is an absolutely insane stretch for anyone in any event. Tommy Fleetwood has played this event every year going back to 2011, and while he doesn’t have a win, he has two runner-ups, two top-5s, zero missed cuts, and has finished in the top-25 all but one year.
Rory has played this event on and off the last 10 years. He has three runner-ups but no victories. Given his amazing Open Championship history, success at Carnoustie and St. Andrews, and amazing recent form, he is an easy favorite this week. One deep cut with solid event history the last few years is Joakim Lagergren. He has played four straight years with three top-12s and a missed cut last year. He is coming in with solid form, as well, so definitely is a player to watch.