Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie will make a victorious homecoming to Scotland today when he and nine of his triumphant European Team travel to St Andrews for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The Scot, five times a Ryder Cup winner as a player and now as a Captain, will take Samuel Ryder’s golden trophy back to the Home of Golf for a tournament fittingly conceived as a celebration of golf.
He will be joined by Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, Padraig Harrington, Ross Fisher and Peter Hanson following their thrilling 14½-13½ victory over America at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales.
They will all tee up at the $5million event, which will again be played in a Pro-Am format over three of Scotland and indeed the world’s most celebrated courses: St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
Montgomerie is, of course, a former winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, having won the title in 2005, as are Harrington and Westwood, with the Irishman lifting the trophy in 2002 and 2006, and the Englishman – who this week rose to Number Two in the Official Golf World Ranking – prevailing in 2003.
Westwood will be looking to take his towering form at The Ryder Cup - where he was unbeaten in his three matches prior to the singles - to Scotland in the knowledge that should he finish first or second, he would become the new World Number One and end Tiger Woods’ 278 week tenure at the top.
Whilst every member of the team played their part in Europe’s successful bid to regain The Ryder Cup, among those travelling to Scotland perhaps the loudest reception will be reserved for McDowell, whose nail-biting defeat of Hunter Mahan in the last match of the final Singles session secured the point needed to wrest the golden chalice from the Americans’ grasp.
McDowell, the reigning US Open Champion, said: “I love playing links courses, so this tournament is one of my favourites. The US Open win at Pebble Beach and Europe’s victory at The Ryder Cup has made this a memorable year, and victory on the Old Course in the Alfred Dunhill Links would make it even more special.”
Other former champions in the field include the English pair Nick Dougherty (2007) and defending champion Simon Dyson, Scottish duo Paul Lawrie (2001) and Stephen Gallacher (2004), and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, the winner in 2008.
A unique event on The European Tour International Schedule, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship incorporates two separate competitions – an individual professional tournament for the world’s leading golfers and a team event in which the professionals are paired with some of the most celebrated amateur golfers, thereby creating a special atmosphere.
Amongst the celebrities who took part last year were film and TV stars Hugh Grant, Greg Kinnear, George Lopez, Kyle MacLachlan, John O’Hurley and Aidan Quinn, as well as musical legends Don Felder, co-writer of Hotel California from the Eagles, Huey Lewis and American country singer Clay Walker.
Four of Britain’s sporting knights, namely Sir Ian Botham, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave, led a locker room full of sporting heroes, including Dutch football legends Johann Cruyff and Ruud Gullit, former England player Jamie Redknapp and Scottish star Alan Hansen.
Cricketers Mark Nicholas and Michael Vaughan of England, plus the Australian duo of Steve Waugh and Shane Warne, also teed up.
Whilst the inaugural Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was held nine years ago, Alfred Dunhill’s support for golf at St Andrews – through the Alfred Dunhill Cup, an international team championship which took place from 1985 to 2000 – actually extends some 26 years.