So with the 2013 season coming to a close on the PGA Tour last week (until mid-October) our full attentions turn to the European Tour, starting this week at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The Dunhill Links Championship is played differently to other tournaments on Tour, as it is played on three separate courses which surround “The Home of Golf”, St.Andrews in Scotland. Further to that each pro is assigned a celebrity amateur and the two combine to try and win the team event, as well as the pro trying to win at the same time. The three courses that host this prestigious are, Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and of course the Old Course at St.Andrews, three different challenges for the players. Yes all three are links courses, but they vary in length, and difficulty. Carnoustie is known to be the more difficult of the three, playing closest to it’s par this time last year, and playing well there will be needed to keep your week on track. In contrast, Kingsbarns is the shortest of the three courses (7,150 yards) but has four par 5s so this is where you need to take advantage and post a good score. Last year’s winner Branden Grace shot a 60 at Kingsbarns proving just how key it is to get off to a good start.
Making putts will be key this week, fairways are generous, so the second shots setting up those putts will also be key. The field quality is stronger than it has been for a while, with the two at the top of the betting Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel, joining the group of top quality players on this Tour. It’s not every week we see Bernd Wiesberger, Joost Luiten, Ernie Els and Branden Grace as well as the other in-form players teeing it up all in the same week, so there will be a particular buzz this week, considering the field and the venues playing host.
To me it’s all about past event form, or if you’ve not played the Dunhill Links before, how competent you are with links conditions. Grace had proved earlier in the season, with his wins at both the Volvo Golf Champions and Volvo China Open that he liked the style of play, and he’s furthered that case again, losing out only to the brilliance of Phil Mickelson at the Scottish Open this year. Making birdies is key any week, but with the winning score ranging between -17 & -22 since 2009 it’s likely that the scoring will have to be particularly low once again, meaning a hot putter and attacking pins.
All bookmakers are paying six places this week. Here are my tips for this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Simon Dyson 30/1 (Betfred) 2.5pts e/w: Not only does Dyson have superb form in this event, including winning here in 2010, but he’s also in a rich vein of form currently, with a good finish two weeks ago at another event he enjoys, the KLM Open. Since coming 5th in the Open De France in July, he has not missed a cut, and has played consistently well, so I’m banking on that to continue here in Scotland. Currently sitting 13th in Greens in Regulation Dyson is finding the target well and I don’t see that changing here this week, at courses he’s played well in the past. His last five performances in the Dunhill Links are MC, T9, T5, 1, MC, so more often than not he performs to a high level, and with his current frame of mind, I’m looking him to perform like he did here between 2009-2011.
Branden Grace 35/1 (BetVictor & SportingBet) 2pts e/w: This tip is not just based on the fact that he won here on his first attempt as a full European Tour member last season, many would be forgiven for thinking it was beginners luck, but I’m convinced it wasn’t. Yes he played the event twice before he won in 2012, but the confidence of being a full professional and three wins under his belt was enough to see him blitz the field. It’s no fluke that he won three events last year in links conditions, and he nearly added to that total at the Scottish Open earlier this year. Grace has proven already in his short career that he can get over the line, and impressively too, and when I’ve backed him in the past, it’s been on links courses, purely because he’s so comfortable with those conditions. Grace has been putting well most of the year, especially at the Scottish Open, so returning to Scotland again, especially at the Dunhill Links will no doubt give him the confidence he needs when standing over those all important putts.
Brett Rumford 55/1 (Betfred & BetVictor) 1pt e/w: I’ve tipped Rumford previously this season, most notably when he won the Ballantine’s Championship as an 80/1 shot back in the last week of April. One week later and Rumford won again, this time at the Volvo China Open, and like Branden Grace proved he can win in links conditions, excelling in the process. The Australian has a wonderful short game, and is enjoying his best season to date, so at 55/1 I’m more than happy to have him onside again this week. Even though both his wins came over a two week spell, he has still managed to play well since, getting into contention in the process. Since missing the cut at the PGA Championship, Rumford has finished, T6, T8 and T15, three more superb weeks under his belt. He hasn’t made a huge impression at this event in previous years, T19 being his best finish in the last five years (2009), but with the year he’s had I really think he could finish right up at the very top of the leaderboard come Sunday, and I believe he’s a fair price to do so. Currently lying 7th in the Race to Dubai, he’ll be keen to keep up the good form, going into the business end of the European Tour season and I am really confident he can do just that.
Raphael Jacquelin 110/1 (Bet365) 1pt e/w: Jacquelin looks overpriced this week, especially considering he’s proved he can play these courses well, with finishes of T5 in 2012, T16 in 2009 and T24 in 2008 as well. He’s been in good form this season, with a win under his belt, and that could be key this week. The two performances, other than his win at the Open De Epsana that I’m taking confidence from are his T14 at the Volvo China Open and his T8 at the Scottish Open. These are two events that shape up similarly in terms of conditions being played at links courses and he’s played well at both. Although he’s missed the last two cuts, I’m happy to take a chance at his three figure odds that he can reverse his fortunes once again, with a huge performance this week. If he can find greens this week, something he’s not done particularly well this season, his putting should hold up to put him in contention. He’s more than competent on the greens and once he finds them, he’s not a player I worry about when he’s looking to convert. My lean was always going to be towards the head of the betting this week, purely because of the quality in the field, but the Frenchman is one player that caught my eye at 100+.
Total Points Staked this week: 13
Profit/Loss for 2013: + 112.25
Thanks to Webb Simpson finishing 4th last week at the Tour Championship we finished the PGA Tour season with a profitable week, only 5 points, but it keeps the ball rolling and we are comfortably in profit on the year. I’m really happy with the selections this week, and I think each players odds are more than fair in relation to their chances here at the Dunhill Links. I have made a new Twitter profile purely for Golf and that is @TJacobsGolf so be sure to follow that account for any feedback/questions you may have.