A truly sensational month of golf in Great Britain and Ireland comes to a conclusion this week with the sixth staging of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at three of Scotland’s most celebrated courses – Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, and the Old Course at St Andrews.
Over the past three weeks, the HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth Club, The Ryder Cup at The K Club and the World Golf Championships – American Express Championship at The Grove enthralled the thousands of spectators who came to the three venues and the millions of television viewers who tuned in around the world.
Now it is the turn of Home of Golf itself to become the focal point of global golfing interest and with the high quality field which has assembled to contest the sixth staging of the US$ 5 million Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, it will not disappoint.
Headlining will be defending champion Colin Montgomerie who thrilled the home galleries 12 months ago when he emerged victorious by a shot after a tremendous last day battle with Englishman Kenneth Ferrie. It was, of course, a victory which helped Montgomerie win The European Tour Order of Merit for the eighth time.
While the 43 year old Scot will, understandably, be the main draw for the crowds this week, extra special cheers will also be reserved for the nine of his Ryder Cup-winning colleagues who will make the trip north of the border.
Paul Casey, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, David Howell, Robert Karlsson, Paul McGinley, José Maria Olazábal, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood all rejoiced alongside Montgomerie in Ireland but will now be doing their best to dethrone him and pick up the bumper first prize of €630,566 (£427,441) for themselves.
For Casey and Howell in particular, the week will have particular resonance as they continue their intriguing battle for The 2006 European Tour Order of Merit. Howell had led for almost ten months since his victory in the season-opening HSBC Champions tournament but was overtaken by Casey after his victory in the HSBC World Match Play Championship.
Now, following last week’s WGC – American Express Championship, Howell, who finished in a share of 13th place, has edged closer to his compatriot, the gap now only €119,915 (£80,709).
As well as the ten Ryder Cup men, victorious Captain Ian Woosnam will also return to competitive action for the first time since his leadership triumph at The K Club while one of his vice-captains, Peter Baker, and one of his assistant captains, Sandy Lyle, will also play.
It is not only European players in action of course. A truly international field has assembled in Scotland, led by the South African duo of Ernie Els and Retief Goosen alongside Fiji’s Vijay Singh.
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is rightly billed as a celebration of links golf and while it is certainly that, the tournament has achieved much more in its short history, specifically linking the worlds of sport and entertainment successfully.
The 168 professionals will join with an amateur partner for the week, including many personalities from the worlds of sport, television, films and business. Amongst those who playing this year are: Boris Becker, Ian Botham, Sir Bobby Charlton, Johan Cruyff, Kenny Dalglish, Kapil Dev, Ruud Gullit, Dennis Hopper, Kyle MacLachlan, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Sir Steve Redgrave, Michael Vaughan and Gianluca Vialli.
The teams all play one round at each of the courses over the first three days, with the top 60 professionals and those tied for 60th place, together with the top 20 teams, going forward to the fourth and final round over the Old Course on Sunday.