The Old Course at St Andrews is one of the most famous and revered golf courses in the world. It is best known as the Home of Golf and as a regular host of the Open Championship but the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is the only professional tournament to be played on the famous links every year.
This pro-am tournament in which big names from sport, entertainment and business compete alongside professional golfers is a long way from the Open but for many of the competitors, it is the best week of the year. As well as one round at St Andrews, the competing pairs also go round Carnoustie and Kingsbarns before those who make the cut do battle for a European Tour title and a pro-am title with one more round at the Old Course on Sunday.
2022: Ryan Fox
Ryan Fox arrived in Scotland for the 2022 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the form of his life. The DP World Tour season had yielded one win and three second-place finishes for the big-hitting Kiwi and yet he had reasons to be disappointed with his season. For example, Fox felt he should have won more and done better in the Open where he missed the cut at St Andrews. He put those two disappointments right in Scotland, winning his second tournament of the season and doing so on the Old Course.
Although the Dunhill Links is a pro-am it is a very difficult tournament to win. Fox managed to win by just one stroke finishing just ahead of Callum Shinkwin, Alex Noren and Rory McIlroy. Beating players of that quality took some excellent golf – particularly off the tee where Fox excels – as well as the fortitude required to dig deep in awful weather conditions on Friday.
Fox also needed to overcome a two-shot deficit on Sunday. Two shots behind Richard Mansell, Fox needed some of his best golf and he stepped up with seven birdies at the Old Course. Three bogeys kept things interesting while Noren missed several chances to at least force his way into a playoff but it was Fox who was celebrating at the home of golf.
2021: Danny Willett
Peaks and troughs. That’s a succinct summary of Danny Willett’s golfing career to date. The affable Yorkshireman has had some tremendous highs including wins at the 2016 Masters, 2018 DP World Tour Championship and 2019 BMW PGA Championship. There have been some very difficult times in between each of those wins and the pattern was repeated once again as Willett snapped a poor run of form with victory at the 2021 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
This was another very special win for Willett. Not only did he get to win on British soil at St Andrews – the home of golf – but the final day of the tournament fell on his birthday. It was his resurgence that brought the emotion out of Willett when talking to the media on the 18th green though. That resurgence has come after a host of health problems so his relief was understandable.
“I’ve always said if I get a bit of a sniff, I’m usually all right,” Willett said. “This is a big one.” Adding to the size of the victory was the quality of the chasing pack. Joakim Lagergren joined the Ryder Cup pairing of Tyrrell Hatton and Shane Lowry in leading the chase but none of them could quite do enough to worry Willett who ended up winning by two strokes.
The 2020 tournament was cancelled.
2019: Victor Perez
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is sometimes criticised by golfing purists for being a bit of a sideshow. The presence of celebrities and the relatively easy course set-ups (to help the amateurs) means it can be a bit neutered, a bit safe and lacking in a bit of drama. But that was not the case in 2019. Victor Perez had to make it through a ding dong battle with Matthew Southgate which, as with so many previous tournaments at St Andrews, was settled on the famous 17th, the Road Hole.
Southgate looked the more likely winner for much of the final round. As well as Perez played, Southgate stayed ahead of his French rival until a costly mistake on the 14th hole. A bogey six was always going to lose a shot to the field but that mistake was felt even more keenly as Perez made birdie. That brought Perez right back into the mix but it was with another bogey on 17 that the wheels really came off for Southgate.
Although born and raised in France, the local fans in attendance could almost claim this was a Scottish win. Perez moved to Dundee 18 months earlier and said that made this first win on the European Tour even more special than it otherwise would have been.
2018: Lucas Bjerregaard
Tyrrell Hatton strolled to a second straight victory in benign conditions at the end of 2017’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship but he was faced with a very different challenge one year on as he attempted to complete the hat-trick. The Englishman couldn’t quite do enough on a bracing final day and it was Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard who eventually hoisted the huge trophy.
Conditions were so bad on Sunday that the tournament organisers enacted a shotgun start meaning that almost the entire field started at 8:30 am. That made things more difficult to keep track of things for fans and competitors alike. It was fairly straightforward for Bjerregaard though who, unusually, was playing in the group behind overnight leader Tyrrell Hatton. He quickly become aware anytime Hatton dropped shots and could apply the pressure by stalking the leader, something he did expertly with a round of 67 that was bettered by just one player.
Bjerregaard needed such a high-quality display in the wind as he was four shots behind the lead at the start of play on Sunday. The show of mental strength he showed to stick to his task and the technical ability required to control his ball flight in the win meant the Dane was a very worthy winner.
2017: Tyrrell Hatton
Tyrrell Hatton became the first player to successfully defend his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship title, going one shot better than the previous year to reach a very impressive winning score of -24 in the 2017 edition. Returning to the site of his first European Tour win was just what Hatton needed to snap out of a poor run of form. He is always demonstrative on the course but that gave way to petulance at times a week earlier when he threw away a strong position in the British Masters so this was a much-needed return to form for many reasons.
Hatton said after securing the win at St Andrews that he never felt as comfortable as the previous year. That seems a little odd given that he started the final round with a five-shot advantage but it speaks to how difficult it is to shake off the mental scars that come with playing poorly for a prolonged period.
Hard work was the route back to better golf for Hatton, both in his work away from the course and in competition. In truth, though he wasn’t made to work that hard by a damp St Andrews given the lack of wind and some friendly pin positions. He was, however, kept honest by Ross Fisher who broke the course record at the Old Course with a round of 61 but he was the only player to finish within seven shots of Hatton.