The Dunhill Links Championship
After a pretty spectacular Ryder Cup, albeit it disappointing, it seems strange to get back to regular tournament action – and that’s just for us! Many of the players coming back from Hazeltine will be bitterly disappointed and will find the return to action a tough one, but there are also those who will have taken great confidence from their performances, namely Thomas Pieters and Rafael Cabrera Bello.
The scene couldn’t really be much different, with sparse crowds spread over 3 links courses that could be providing some blustery conditions this weekend. The Dunhill Links has thrown up some high quality winners in recent years and because of the easy set-up for this pro-am, the scoring is always eye-wateringly low. With little trouble off the tee, length is a huge asset but above all we are looking for guys with a good links pedigree and a habit of making loads of birdies.
It’s always good to look out for a couple of debutants shine – last year Jimmy Mullen shot 64 on his pro debut to lead after the opening round. Despite starting on the tough Carnoustie on Thursday (on what looks to be the windiest day, Grant Forrest is going to be well worth a watch in his first tournament.
First round leader – with the weather looking toughest on Thursday, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to identify the relatively easy Kingsbarns as the place to look for the opening round leader. Any one of Nicolas Colsaerts, Ross Fisher and Tommy Fleetwood should give you a good run in this market.
Alex Noren 22/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £295
Some might say that in hindsight, Noren was unlucky not to be picked for the Ryder Cup side given his form this summer. He really has been in sparkling form, winning in Switzerland and at the Scottish Open. Looking as his links form alone, he’s a no-brainer having also been runner-up in the Paul Lawrie Matchplay and recorded a creditable finish in The Open despite having an unfavourable draw. He’s done well in this tournament before and will not be short of confidence this week.
Rafael Cabrera Bello 28/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £370
Although Thomas Pieters slightly outshone RCB last week, we feel better value coming from the Spaniard. Up until last week he’s had a quiet couple of months but will be seriously juiced up after his great play at Hazeltine in getting 2 ½ points from 3. It’s traditionally been a tough gig, coming to Scotland straight after an away Ryder Cup, but he proved earlier in the year that he can perform well off the back of heavy travel.
Joost Luiten 40/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £520
Alongside Alex Noren, Luiten has probably been the European Tour’s other standout performer this summer. He finally recorded the win that his fine play merited in his home open a few weeks back and has some fine form at The Dunhill. He’s fond of making plenty of birdies and after a tough stretch of tournaments will have benefitted from a week off watching the Ryder Cup. He’s got a favourable draw too.
Ross Fisher 40/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £520
Remember when he played Ryder Cup? It was a while ago now, but he’s coming back to some of the form that once got him into the top 10 in the world. Having come runner-up in the weather shortened Porsche Open a couple of weeks ago he’ll be keener than ever to top off a fine season with a return to the winners circle in a tournament that couldn’t be better suited to his game.
David Howell 100/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £635
Howeller is a former winner here and has a decent record in the tournament. He’s also been hinting at a return to some of his best form this summer. These are generous odds for a player with his record in the event, and so long as he can stay fairly sober, he’ll have a good chance at converting last year’s pro-am win alongside Hugh Grant into something a little more lucrative.
Paul Dunne 125/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £791.25
The young Irishman has had an impressive debut season on tour. He’s not been in the mix too often, but he’s in a strong position to retain his status for next season and that is no mean feat these days. He made his pro debut here last year alongside his fellow Walker Cup players and has outshone all of them since. He recorded a highly creditable top 20 finish at the venue of his amazing Open Championship performance just months earlier. He’ll be delighted to be back here and will have plenty of motivation for a good finish that will secure his card for next year.