PLEASE NOTE: Bet365, Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and Boylesports have extended their Each Way terms for the Alfred Dunhill Links to 6 places EW, the only bookies to do so at the time of writing. For further details and full prices click here: Bet365 | Paddy Power | Ladbrokes | Boylesports
The 'Fifth Major' in the eyes of many European Tour players has once again attracted the cream of European golf for what is always an enthralling 4 days on the Scottish Links. With Donald, Westwood, McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Kaymer all playing - 5 of the top 6 in the World - we're in for a real treat this week! Naturally the bookies have the 4 Europeans at the top of their lists this week with prices just squeaking into double figures for all 4 players and it's quite feasible that any one of them could win this. What this also means though is that there are some cracking prices available on players further down the field so, coupled with the fact that some bookies are going 6 places each way, I've also highlighted a few of my favourite outsiders for those of you who like a 3-figure punt: Alfred Dunhill Championship Outsiders
The Alfred Dunhill Links is a pro-am format played on 3 courses - Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and St Andrews - over the first 3 days, then the final round is professionals only around the Old Course with some trickier pin positions. With cracking weather conditions expected (for late September in Scotland by any rate!), St Andrews is likely to play the easiest of the 3 so well worth bearing in mind the draw if you're looking for trading opportunities or first round leader bets. With over 160 entrants to wade through, it's important to get down to a manageable shortlist. I've done this by looking at the following statistics:
1. With the surprising exception of Lee Westwood in 2003, every other winner of this tournament had at least 3 top 10s in the season to date before winning. Quite simply, you need to be showing some strong season-long form to win around here. So, by removing anyone without 3 or more top 10s so far, we get the list down to just 55 players. The European Tour lists players with the most top 10s here: Euro Top 10s
2. Other than Stephen Gallacher in 2004, everyone else was already a winner on the European Tour, so I'll also ignore all Tour maidens.
3. All of the previous winners had at least 1 top 10 in their last 6 starts, so anyone without good recent form is also out of the reckoning.
4. It's also worth noting that the last 3 winners all had very recent wins under their belt: Kaymer completed his 3rd consecutive win here last year after securing the PGA Championship and KLM Open on his previous 2 starts; Dyson had also won the KLM Open before his triumph in 2009; Karlsson had won the Mercedes Benz Championship on his previous start in Cologne back in 2008. If that trend is to continue then looking at players who have notched a victory either side of the pond in the last few weeks is imperative.
All things considered, my selections for the week are as follows:
Followers of my tips will know that I put strong credence into the output of our predictor model and, once again, I'll be backing the number 1 predictor selection in my tips. Last week's top predictor pick was Joost Luiten who was in contention all the way down the 72nd hole which he ultimately 3-putted from the fringe to miss the playoff by 1 shot. Let's hope to go one better this week!
Simon Dyson is one of my favourite European players as he wears his heart on his sleeve and always gives 110%, often for weeks on end without pause for breath. Having drifted out of the World's top 50 last season and missing out on the Ryder Cup, Dyson has come back to form with a vengeance in recent weeks and now sits inside the top 30 in the OWGR and top 10 in the Race To Dubai following 2 excellent wins in Ireland and Holland. Quite simply, Dyson is playing the best golf of his life.
Now if you couple his form with the fact that he's playing at St Andrews (where he's won, in this event, back in 2009), in a Links tournament (he's won on a further 2 Links courses in Holland in recent years) and at the start of a new Ryder Cup campaign that he'd so dearly love to be part of, I think you'll find a massively motivated player who will be at the thick end of proceedings on Sunday. His price reflects the clear chance that he has here and I suggest you grab it quickly as I suspect it will only shorten up by Thursday...RESULT: T9
The battle of the top-5 ranked players in the World could well go to the long-hitting American who recently won the first event of the PlayOff series in the US, The Barclays. If you're still looking to back one of the favourites then take a look at our no lose bets page - this gives you the chance to cover off some players with the knowledge that your stake will be refunded if you're wrong. However, for me, I'll be backing DJ at 25/1 instead.
Johnson is one of those rare players who always seems to come alive on a Links course. Twice a winner at Pebble Beach on the PGA Tour, the American is perhaps best-known for his 'bunker incident' at Whistling Straits (another Links-type course) which ultimately cost him a chance of a first Major. He also finished 8th behind GMac at Pebble in 2010, plus most recently finished in a tie for 2nd at Sandwich with Lefty behind Darren Clarke. Let's get this straight, he thrives on Links golf!
Following his win at the Barclays, Johnson has struggled a bit - firstly with his putter at TPC boston, then with accuracy off the tee at the tighter confines of Cog Hill and East Lake...perhaps the pressure of leading the race for the $10m bonus got to him a little. This week will be different though with the freedom he'll enjoy off the tee and he'll relish the opportunity to attack the short par 4s of St Andrews in particular with his aggressive, long-hitting style. RESULT: M/C
The headlines have been full of 'Bjorn again' puns over the last few weeks as the great Dane secured his 3rd win of the season in Switzerland and his 4th win in a little over a year and, like Dyson, he now sits inside the World's top 30 with invites coming to all the serious tournaments for the next season at least. Again, like Dyson, Bjorn is playing majestic golf which means he simply cannot be ignored this week - particularly when you consider how similar his form looks to that of the last 3 winners here.
We scored a 250/1 EW result on Bjorn at Sandwich which once again highlighted his ability to play the types of shots required to succeed on Links courses - his 5th top 10 at the Open Championship. 11th in this event last year as well as finishes of 13th and 7th earlier in the century prove that Bjorn can compete here when he's in good nick - well he's in the outstanding nick at the moment and must be backed here at 40/1. RESULT: M/C
The final player in my quartet is the talented young Swede Alex Noren who has also won recently, this time in Stockholm for his 2nd trophy of the season and 3rd of his European Tour career. That win was all the more impressive as he literally blew away the opposition with 3 sparkling rounds and coasted to victory in gale-force wins on the Sunday to win by 7 shots. At 72nd in the OWGR it will only take 1 more big win to get him inside the World's top 50 - that surely is the next step on his career path and can be achieved with a win here this week.
Noren is the kind of player who can make a very low score when that's the task at hand - with easy conditions expected then he won't be overawed at the prospect of a producing 4 low rounds to take this title. A top 20 at Royal Birkdale in 2008 was a sign of things to come, and 17th here last year showed good progression on this layout. However what really catches the eye is form of 3/12/10 at the KLM Open when it was played at Kennemer between 2007-09, proving he can play links golf and now, as a player of much higher standing, I'd expect him to feature heavily here. RESULT: T39
Don't forget, you can read my view of the best 3-figure outsiders here: Alfred Dunhill Championship Outsiders
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 19:45BST 27.9.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.