Our press team at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship bring you all the action from on and off the links...
Pistorius entertains the masses
It was a pleasure to have Olympic and Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in for a press conference on Wednesday, and he had the packed interview room in stitches with his honest appraisal of his golfing abilities. "Rubbish" was a word used more than once, although the South African is clearly relishing the prospect of playing on three of the world's most famous links courses. The biggest laugh, however, came when he was asked when in his life had he been most nervous about something, having admitted to feeling the pressure when several spectators watched him play the 18th of the famous Old Course at St Andrews. "The most nervous I have ever been was last year when I had to do Dancing with the Stars," he said. "I was completely out of my comfort zone and a terrible dancer. I'd like to say I had two left feet, but of course I don't have any feet!"
The sight and sound of jets from nearby RAF Leuchars flying over St Andrews is a regular occurrence, but it took on more meaning for one American amateur practising on the Old Course on Tuesday. Looking up to the sky as two planes flew over, he said “Thanks again, boys”, prompting the professional he was playing with to ask what he meant. He explained that he had been fighting in the Vietnam War, and was in a situation from which there was no escape until the RAF came to the rescue and got him and his men out. So every time he has seen the jets fly over in the nine years he has played the tournament, he has nodded his appreciation. It certainly puts the golf into perspective...
Carnoustie set to bear its teeth
The stunning Carnoustie Golf Links is invariably the course the players fear most this week – and not just because there is an MOD firing range adjacent to the course! Affectionately known as ‘Carnasty’ due to its difficulty, Carnoustie has hosted The Open Championship on seven occasions and also the Senior Open Championship in 2010. It was also the venue for the legendary Ben Hogan’s one and only Open Championship appearance in 1953, when he won by four shots. To commemorate his victory, there is a plaque installed on the sixth hole, which is called Hogan’s Alley in honour of the nine-time Major Champion.
Ryder Cup stars bound for Scotland
Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer and Paul Lawrie are the three members of the victorious European Ryder Cup team playing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week, and they will no doubt be give a hero’s welcome in St Andrews. Kaymer, whose last-hole victory against Steve Stricker ensured The Ryder Cup remained in Europe’s hands, won here in 2010 and will surely be relishing returning to the fabled links courses to bask in the glory. Let’s hope the trio – as well as Vice Captains Thomas Björn, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Paul McGinley – have recovered from the celebrations in time for Thursday’s first round. Rumour has it the party continued into the early hours of Monday morning, and then resumed on the official team flight back to London later that day.
Olympic presence in St Andrews
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship always features some A-list names from the worlds of sport and entertainment, and this year is no different as we are lucky enough to be in the presence of greatness here at St Andrews. American swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, is one of the more high-profile amateurs in the field, as is South African Oscar Pistorius, the ‘blade-runner’ who competed in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London this summer. We also have the tournament ‘regulars’ in former cricketer Sir Ian Botham, ex-footballer and BBC pundit Alan Hansen, rowing legends Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave and rock star Huey Lewis.
No heat wave this year
Thankfully the forecast for the week is plenty of sunshine, with chances of showers on a couple of the days – but it’s a far cry from the beginning of the tournament last year, when we turned up at St Andrews to find the beach crowded with sunbathers. A freak warm spell had swept over the country and the eastern coast of Scotland was not left out as the university town enjoyed clear skies and temperatures in the mid 20s. This year, though, bikinis have been swapped for beanies...