Billed as a celebration of links golf, the 2003 dunhill links championship can also be viewed as a celebration of the strength of The European Tour as one of the most impressive fields of the year lines up this week at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
Led by the current top eight on the Volvo Order of Merit – Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Thomas Björn, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Phillip Price, Paul Casey and Adam Scott (check Mon) – the high-quality field is sure to attract huge crowds once again to the Home of Golf.
Last year Harrington took the title in dramatic fashion, birdieing the final hole to force a play-off with Eduardo Romero before repeating the feat at the second extra hole to edge out the Argentine, a victory which helped the Irishman to second place on the Volvo Order of Merit at the end of the season behind Retief Goosen.
Victory was doubly sweet for Harrington as he and fellow Irishman, race horse owner JP McManus, claimed the team event with a 37 under par score, finishing six strokes ahead of Romero and his partner, Edinburgh lawyer Neil Crichton.
Once again the team event will play a part over all four days as all 168 professionals joined by an amateur partner. After 54 holes, the field reduces to the leading 60 professionals and ties, plus the leading 20 teams, all of whom play the final round over the Old Course at St Andrews.
The field is further strengthened by the appearance of international golfers such as European Tour Honorary Member Vijay Singh and three time Major Champion Nick Price as well as the latest Member of the Major Championship winning club, American Shaun Micheel.
The 34 year old from Tennesse, who claimed the US PGA Championship in dramatic fashion at Oak Hill Country Club last month, chooses the event to make his competitive debut in Europe and admitted he cannot wait for the challenge.
“I have never played golf in Europe and this opportunity to play the Old Course at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns is going to be a memorable beginning. I am really looking forward to playing in front of the Scottish galleries,” said Micheel.
“Coming to the dunhill links championship will give me a wonderful opportunity to play links golf and compete with the finest players on The European Tour.
“Playing links golf will be a new challenge for me. The courses in Scotland are very different to those we play in the United States and I look forward to the challenge of hard fast fairways and pot bunkers. The Old Course is the most famous golf course in the world and it’s always been an ambition of mine to play it.”