It was THAT week again in St. Andrews…. From Ruud Gullit and Justin Timberlake casually strolling down Market Street to Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose mesmerizing golf fans on the hallowed fairways of the Old Course, St. Andrews was the place to be last week.
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is a unique event on the European Tour. Because a Pro-Am ran next to the Pros’ event, this tournament attracted a very diverse range of fans. With amateurs who have been stalwarts in the field of music, cricket, tennis, and politics, it is safe to say that the golfers were not the only attraction.
In terms of the action on course, the week was low scoring. It was a “Bonnie-Scottish” welcome for the golfers and their distinguished amateurs on Thursday morning as the weather held fair. The great weather resulted in consistent scoring throughout the day. The greens were in immaculate condition, and a tone was set for the rest of the week. A testament to the unpredictability of Scottish weather, the rain gods came calling on Friday. Windy, murky conditions greeted the players who had to be content with scratchy pars as opposed to taking the course on with risky golf.
Following a day of enforced conservative golfing on Friday, the birdies and eagles came calling over the weekend, with the leaderboard tightening up at the top. Youngsters such as Matthew Jordan made a name for themselves, being in contention throughout the week. It is common for youngsters to crumble under the pressure of playing on the Old Course in front of an unprecedented following. Still, fortunately, they brought their A-games and posed an exciting challenge to the usual contenders.
It was a battle of the Jordans’ early on, as Matthew Jordan and Jordan Smith shared the lead between them. The rest of the pack kept ticking away, and this group comprised of a blend of youth and experience. Justin Rose seemed to be blitzing his way through his second round at Kingsbarns on Friday. As he followed recording an outstanding eight-under on the front nine, it seemed likely a course record was on the line for him, but it was not meant to be as the prevailing winds around Kingsbarns checked his progress.
Rory McIlroy, alongside his dad in the Pro-Am, played steady golf over the week but never really looked threatening to the leaderboard. They were vying the Pro-Am (team) title. With a very impressive 39 under between the duo over the four days, it seemed inevitable that the trophy was heading back across the border to Ireland, but Tommy Fleetwood and Ogden Phipps spoilt the party by matching their score, with Fleetwood being the better of the Pros, resulting in Fleetwood and Phipps going away with the spoils.
It was a real struggle in the Pros’ event with no one seeming to be in control with a sizeable lead. Heading into the back nine on Sunday, Matthew Southgate and Frenchman Victor Perez seemed to be sizing each other up, and after holding his nerve right till the end with an immaculate approach shot on the 18th, Perez managed to clinch the title by a mere one shot. To put the margin of victory into context, thirteen others were within four shots of Perez, and hence, it could be argued that this was one of the tightest and most exhilarating finishes at the Dunhill.
As the sunset began behind Victor Perez holding the trophy on the renowned Swilken Bridge aloft, the curtains came down on another eventful week at the home of golf and our home, St Andrews.