With a first prize of €662,415, this weekend’s dunhill links championship could go a long to deciding the winner of The European Tour Order of Merit, as Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie and Englishman David Howell push for the victory that would take them within catching distance of current Number One Michael Campbell of New Zealand.
While the men at the top do battle for one of golf’s most prestigious titles of being crowned The European Tour’s Number One, those players looking to secure their playing privileges for 2006 can do so in glorious fashion over three of Scotland’s finest links courses – Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and the Old Course at St Andrews.
Montgomerie, currently three places behind US Open Champion Campbell on the money list, and Howell, who is just one spot further back, will arrive in Scotland buoyed by their success as part of the Great Britain and Ireland team that won a third successive Seve Trophy at the Wynyard Club last weekend.
Howell came close to winning the dunhill links championship last season when he finished just three shots behind Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, who defeated Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell with a birdie at the first extra play-off hole after both players had finished the regulation 72 holes in 19 under par.
Gallacher will be in his homeland to defend his title against many of The European Tour’s biggest names, including 2004 Ryder Cup stars Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood of England, Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley of Ireland and, of course, Howell and Montgomerie.
For those players outside of the top 115 places on the current European Tour Order of Merit, a top ten finish at the home of golf on Sunday evening could ensure they stay on Tour next season.
The dunhill links championship is a unique event that brings together personalities from the world of sports and entertainment and some of the world’s leading golfers to form a hugely entertaining pro-am style tournament.
Among this season’s celebrity competitors are past and present Ashes heroes Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss, Ian Botham and Steve Waugh, tennis ace Boris Becker, football legends Sir Bobby Charlton and Johan Cruyff, Olympic champions Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent and Jonathan Edwards, Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell and downhill ski legend Franz Klammer.
The field is comprised of 168 teams of one professional and one Amateur, who contest the first three rounds over a different links course each day. Two competitions are played concurrently – professional individual and team. The team score will be the best net score of the two players at each hole. After 54 holes the field reduces to the leading 60 professionals and ties plus the 20 leading teams, all of whom play the final round over the Old Course at St Andrews.