Ryder Cup heroes head for Scotland

10/1/2012 1:44:31 PM
Thomas Bjorn hugs Martin Kaymer  (Getty Images)
Thomas Bjorn hugs Martin Kaymer (Getty Images)

Ryder Cup heroes Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson can expect a rousing reception this week when they return to European soil to compete in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and the Old Course at St Andrews.

The European trio will be back on the more familiar footing of The Race to Dubai after the Miracle of Medinah – and for Kaymer and Lawrie the week represents another opportunity to capture a title at the Home of Golf.

Lawrie, who recorded the biggest victory in the singles of The Ryder Cup in Chicago by defeating Brandt Snedeker 5 and 3, was the first Scottish winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2001 and the 43 year old can expect a happy homecoming after playing a key role in the 14 ½ - 13 ½ victory over the United States.

Hero of the hour Kaymer will be hoping history repeats itself in Scotland, having helped seal a miraculous Ryder Cup victory for Europe with his last green success over Steve Stricker at Medinah. Two years ago the German played his part in the thrilling 14½-13½ victory at The Celtic Manor Resort and the following week won the prestigious links event.

That was the fourth title of the 2010 season for Kaymer, en route to winning The Race to Dubai, but even that achievement was arguably eclipsed by his heroics at Medinah Country Club on Sunday night, where he held his nerve to hole a six foot putt on the last to beat American veteran Stricker and ensure the Samuel Ryder Trophy remained in Europe’s hands.

Kaymer’s point completed a stunning comeback for Europe, who had started the final singles session trailing 10-6. Kaymer, Lawrie and Hanson, who lost on the 18th to Jason Dufner, are joined in the field by Dustin Johnson, who won three points from three for the Americans.

José María Olazábal’s Vice Captains Thomas Björn, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Paul McGinley will also tee it up in the US$5million tournament, which 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.

Northern Irishman Michael Hoey returns to defend the title he won in such impressive style last year, when he held off his compatriots Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy with a final round of 68 over the fabled Old Course at St Andrews.

“I’ve never defended a title before, for one reason or another, so it’ll be fantastic,” said Hoey. “I love links golf and with all the celebrities playing it’s a very special week.

“Last year was dream golf. I had three rounds of 66, then playing with Graeme and having Rory just ahead, to finish it off the way I did with three birdies in the last four holes was the stuff of dreams. I had a few friends over watching and it was a special day.

“Obviously winning in Morocco (Trophée Hassan II) earlier this year was great as well, but the quality of the field in Scotland – with five of the world’s top six – made it all the more satisfying. To beat Luke Donald and all those guys gave me a lot of confidence.

“I can’t wait to get back there. It’s hard to pick one from the three that’s my favourite. Kingsbarns is unbelievably beautiful, Carnoustie is a legendary course, and the Old Course is just the Old Course, say no more.”

Open Champion Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, who won The Open Championship at St Andrews in 2010, and 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel head a strong South African contingent, and they are joined by fellow Major winners Rich Beem, Michael Campbell , Padraig Harrington and Shaun Micheel.

Entrance to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship will be FREE at all three courses on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A ticket price of £15 (concessionary £10) will be charged for the final day’s play over the Old Course on Sunday, October 7. Entry for under 16s and students is free. Tickets are available through the ticket hotline on 0844 581 4922 or at the entrance gates.