Last week’s headline selection Matt Wallace looked every inch a potential winner after 18 holes last week, carding a sublime bogey-free round of 65 on Thursday and looking in complete control of his game, however sadly it wasn’t to be as he quickly backpedalled as the tournament progressed. Well done to all of you who were on eventual winner Danny Willett at prices of up to 66/1, who grabbed his second high-profile win in the past year in impressive fashion after capturing last year’s DP World Tour Championship.
A number of last week’s cast have stayed in the UK and are heading up to Scotland for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week. Although the introduction of the Rolex Series may have relegated this event a little in terms of stature, it’s still more than a decent title to win with a $5m prize fund up for grabs, plus the event is equally about the celebrity amateurs who play alongside their golfing heroes at and around the Home of Golf for 4 days.
13 of the World’s top 50 are in attendance plus a pretty solid undercard from the European Tour, however all 168 entrants will be looking to take the biggest possible share of the pot that’s on offer this week – for many of the Europeans this is very close to the make-or-break point of the season where cards can be retained, flights to Dubai booked and world ranking positions gained with decent OWGR points up for grabs this week.
The event is played over 3 courses for the first 3 days – Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and St Andrews – then the final round is contested around the Old Course with slightly trickier pin positions after 3 days of pretty generous placements to help the amateurs. Temperament is an important factor in this quirky event where rounds can take over 6 hours to complete, with some of the amateurs barely able to claim ‘hacker’ status. Long waits of half an hour or longer are common on some tees as play grinds to a halt, so those with the personality to enjoy the occasion whilst retaining focus when it’s eventually their time to play a shot are at an advantage.
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Course Overview. The Old Course at St Andrews needs little introduction as the ‘Home of Golf’ is steeped in golfing tradition dating back to the very roots of the sport some 600 years ago. The 17th Road Hole, with its notorious bunker, and the closing 18th, which features the Swilcan Bridge and the Valley of Sin, are the most famous closing holes on the planet and this rolling links is recognisable worldwide to those with just the most basic of golfing knowledge.
The 7,307 yard, par 72 has a peculiar setup of 14 par-4s and just a pair each of par-3s & par-5s and features 7 double greens with huge, fescue/bentgrass putting surfaces. The other two tracks used for a day each in this event are Carnoustie and Kingsbarns with Carnoustie tending to play the toughest of all 3 courses, however much depends on the strength of the breeze as we saw first hand at the 2010 Open Championship when a windy Friday decimated many scorecards at St Andrews – including that of Rory McIlroy who shot 80 that day to ultimately scupper his chances of what would have been his first Claret jug.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2018: Lucas Bjerregaard, 50/1; 2017: Tyrrell Hatton, 22/1; 2016: Tyrrell Hatton, 66/1; 2015: Thorbjorn Olesen, 200/1; 2014: Oliver Wilson, 500/1; 2013: David Howell, 125/1; 2012: Branden Grace, 50/1; 2011: Michael Hoey, 250/1; 2010: Martin Kaymer, 16/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for St Andrews is here. What a difference a week makes – after the warm sunshine of Wentworth, our trip north of the border will be greeted with far more autumnal conditions with rain expected at times during the 4 days, temperatures struggling to reach the high-50s Fahrenheit after chilly starts, and winds of between 10-15mph at times.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the last 9 winners of this event gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
- 2018, Lucas Bjerregaard (-15). 64.1% fairways (19th), 83.3% greens in regulation (3rd), 41.7% scrambling (32nd), 1.68 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2017, Tyrrell Hatton (-24). 60.4% fairways (39th), 85.2% greens in regulation (1st), 100% scrambling (1st), 1.72 putts per GIR (13th).
- 2016, Tyrrell Hatton (-23). 72.9% fairways (27th), 83.3% greens in regulation (10th), 77.8% scrambling (11th), 1.73 putts per GIR (20th).
- 2015, Thorbjorn Olesen (-18). 57.0% fairways (130th), 86.1% greens in regulation (7th), 50% scrambling (87th), 1.69 putts per GIR (14th)
- 2014, Oliver Wilson (-17). 62.8% fairways (89th), 75.9% greens in regulation (64th), 88.5% scrambling (1st), 1.85 putts per GIR (89th)
- 2013, David Howell (-23). 69.9% fairways (93rd), 88.9% greens in regulation (10th), 75.0% scrambling (32nd), 1.67 putts per GIR (8th)
- 2012, Branden Grace (-22). 62.8% fairways (112th), 84.7% greens in regulation (10th), 63.6% scrambling (46th), 1.67 putts per GIR (6th)
- 2011, Michael Hoey (-22). 59.4% fairways (120th), 81.9% greens in regulation (29th), 81.8% scrambling (7th), 1.66 putts per GIR (7th)
- 2010, Martin Kaymer (-17). 73.5% fairways (40th), 81.9% greens in regulation (5th), 69.2% scrambling (10th), 1.78 putts per GIR (26th)
With the exception of Carnoustie, fairways are wide and greens large and easy to hit, so much of this event comes down to how players perform on and around the greens. Converting birdie chances is critical if players are going to compile a contending score and minimising bogeys from off of the green is also vital in an event where somewhere around 20-under is typically the target to be in with a sniff on Sunday afternoon in average conditions.
As well as the event’s nuances that are more obvious in that a slow, pro-am event on 3 different links tracks isn’t likely to suit everyone, there are also some other important points to consider:
- With the exception of Tyrrell Hatton in 2016, Oliver Wilson in 2014 and Stephen Gallacher in 2004, every other winner of this event since 2001 already had a career victory on the European Tour.
- GB & Ireland players have won 13 of those 18 Alfred Dunhill Links Championships, Karlsson (08), Kaymer (10), Grace (12), Olesen (15) and Bjerregaard (18) being the exceptions.
- 8 of the last 11 winners here had a win in the current or previous season to their name; 3 of those 11 were arriving here having won their previous event.
- 7 of the last 11 winners here had recorded at least a top-10 in this event in their career prior to winning.
With generous pin positions and scoreable par 4s and 5s – particularly at Kingsbarns and St Andrews – this event, for me, is about birdie-making first and foremost. A moderate breeze may well keep a lid on scoring to a degree, however the emphasis is still likely to be about performing and scoring well on and around the dancefloors. Indeed even last year, when scoring conditions weren’t as good as the previous 2 renewals, eventual winner Lucas Bjerregaard still topped the putting stats on the week.
Incoming Form. In terms of incoming form, the winners here since 2010 have been very mixed as is reflected by odds ranging from 16/1 to 500/1 and around half of the winners in that period have been 125/1 or longer pre-event.
Martin Kaymer (16/1) in 2010 completed a personal hat-trick of wins here having captured the US PGA Championship and KLM Open in his two previous events. Michael Hoey (250/1) hadn’t finished inside the top 30 in his previous 10 starts, David Howell (125/1) had recorded a solitary top-10 in the previous 6 months, Oliver Wilson (500/1) had failed to make the top-30 in his previous 15 events, most of which were on the Challenge Tour, Thorbjorn Olesen (200/1) had missed 10 of his previous 14 cuts after his return from a wrist injury.
Despite some good early-season form Tyrrell Hatton arrived here in 2016 with incoming efforts of MC/MC/45, however his successful defence came off the back of consecutive top-8 finishes. 2012 winner Branden Grace (50/1) had shown poor recent form on the European Tour before winning here, although he did arrive fresh off the back of a low-key victory the previous week on the Sunshine Tour. Lucas Bjerregaard had shown some of the more consistent form of recent victors here with 4 consecutive top-20 finishes before winning here 12 months ago, included in which was a play-off defeat at Crans on his penultimate start. A very mixed bag indeed:
- 2018, Lucas Bjerregaard: 3/71/5/61/MC/MC/39/WD/9/6/2/20
- 2017, Tyrrell Hatton: 29/41/30/MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/36/MC/3/8
- 2016, Tyrrell Hatton: 5/7/20/MC/33/2/5/10/17/MC/MC/45
- 2015, Thorbjorn Olesen: MC/MC/29/MC/MC/MC/33/MC/5/MC/67/MC
- 2014, Oliver Wilson: MC/33/MC/MC/MC/33/44/55/MC/MC/MC/47
- 2013, David Howell: DQ/MC/65/MC/71/8/42/17/MC/26/41/53
- 2012, Branden Grace: 17/5/25/51/MC/17/68/77/36/MC/76/1
- 2011, Michael Hoey: 70/1/31/54/66/MC/MC/34/MC/52/48/MC
- 2010, Martin Kaymer: 34/MC/28/12/8/21/6/MC/7/22/1/1
Event Form. Going back to 2010, nearly half of the winners had fairly tangible form here – in fact Kaymer, Wilson and Olesen had all finished runner-up in this event previously in their respective careers and Hatton was defending champion in 2017. David Howell had 4 top-8 finishes from 12 starts here prior to winning and clearly also enjoys the format. Hoey, Grace, Hatton (in 2016) and Bjerregaard on the other hand would have been very difficult to pick out simply by eyeballing their previous efforts at the Alfred Dunhill Links:
- 2018, Lucas Bjerregaard: 32/MC/MC/MC
- 2017, Tyrrell Hatton: MC/MC/1
- 2016, Tyrrell Hatton: MC/MC
- 2015, Thorbjorn Olesen: 45/2/MC/58
- 2014, Oliver Wilson: MC/32/MC/40/2/MC/21/34/59
- 2013, David Howell: 3/58/6/5/37/MC/MC/60/MC/8/MC/34
- 2012, Branden Grace: MC
- 2011, Michael Hoey: MC/19/MC
- 2010, Martin Kaymer: 15/2
In years where conditions have been tougher, it’s been players who’ve featured towards the top of the GIR stats on the week who’ve tended to prevail, and with conditions looking less favourable this week I’ll use that as my starting point for this week’s team. This is links golf though so a strong short game is also of value and contenders will need to bring all aspects of their game this week if they’re going to compile a competitive total.
Excellent previous event form isn’t absolutely essential, however sticking relatively close to the trends highlighted a little further above helps narrow this large field down to a few suitable players.
My selections are as follows: