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Alfred Dunhill Links Tips & Predictions: Six each-way plays for St Andrews

Alfred Dunhill Links Tips & Predictions: Jamie Donaldson features.
Alfred Dunhill Links Tips & Predictions: Jamie Donaldson features.

After a two year wait due to the pandemic, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship makes its return. Established in 2001, this pro-am event takes place on three iconic links courses on the East-Coast of Scotland. Old classics: St Andrews (Old Course) and Carnoustie, with modern classic, Kingsbarns rounding off the three.

The field will rotate between each of the three courses Thursday – Saturday, before the field is cut and they head back to St Andrews for the final round.

They all play to a par 72, with Carnoustie the longest at 7400 yards, followed by St Andrews at 7300 yards and Kingsbarns the shortest at 7150 yards.

It’s traditionally been a low scoring affair, with Kingsbarns proving to be the easiest and Carnoustie the most difficult of the three. Always at the mercy of the elements, we may get some true, attritional links conditions this week, as there is strong wind and rain forecast throughout the four days of the event. 

Alfred Dunhill Links Tips

Even though these courses won’t be set up to play as tough as if they were hosting an Open Championship, they’ll still be difficult in these conditions, as the exposed nature of links courses allows the wind to wreak havoc if you don’t have the right shots in the bag. The bunkers will be penal, tricky lies will be common if you’re hitting it off-line and getting up and down will present a huge challenge.

The last time we saw the event in 2019, France’s Victor Perez put on a ball-striking clinic to win by a shot at -22. 2018 saw a windy affair, with Dane, Lucas Bjerregaard coming out on top at -15 and leading the field tee-to-green. With Tyrrell Hatton going back-to-back in 2016/2017, both times producing magic on and around the greens to win with scores of -23 and -24 respectively.

Three of last week’s defeated European team, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry tee it up and will be hoping for a more positive week. They’re joined by Billy Horschel, who extends his stay in the UK after winning at Wentworth three weeks ago and an otherwise strong European Tour field, typical of this event.

Golf odds
Jamie Donaldson E/W (7 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-28 11:35 Odds subject to change.

The top of the market is dominated by the three returning Ryder Cup players, along with Billy Horschel and Alex Noren. None of them appeal to me at the prices.

Due to the unique nature of the event, combined with potentially tough conditions, meaning you can get unlucky with the draw if your players are on the wrong course at the wrong time, I’ve decided to concentrate further down the betting.  With nobody shorter than 66/1 making it into the selections. Starting with recent BMW PGA Championship runner-up, Jamie Donaldson, who can continue his recent run and go one step further this week in Scotland.

That really was an excellent performance three weeks ago at Wentworth, when he finished 2nd by a shot to Billy Horschel. Every part of his game was in fine form that week and that has really been the story of his season.

Three starts prior to that he finished 2nd in the Cazoo Classic at London Golf Club, with a 5th place in the Qatar Masters earlier in the year adding up to three top 5s for the year. That performance particularly standing out as it was played in quite severe, windy conditions for three out of the four days, much like the conditions that are forecast this week.

He has a game made for links golf. He’s a solid ball-striker, accurate both off-the-tee and in approach, with the real quality of his game coming on and around the green, where he ranks 22nd in scrambling, 36th around-the-greens and 28th in putting. 

This has made up for a really good record on links courses, most notably when he won the Irish Open back in 2012 at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. He also has a good record in this event, 8th in 2008 his best effort. He also finished 9th in 2011 and 13th in 2015. 

He’s currently playing his best golf in years and can use his experience to handle the worst of the conditions, should they arrive this week. 

Matthew Jordan E/W (7 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-28 11:35 Odds subject to change.

At the opposite end of the experience scale, we have 25 year-old Matthew Jordan. Though, despite his young years he’s shown himself to be something of a links specialist, both in the professional ranks and as an amateur, and I’m expecting a big performance as he’s started to find form in this second part of the year.

He was a superb amateur before turning pro in 2018, reaching 4th in the rankings. This was largely down to excellent performances on links courses. He won the Lytham Trophy at Lytham St Annes in 2018, finishing 7th the previous year. As well as being a winner of the St Andrews Links Trophy in 2017 and twice finished 4th in the Irish Amateur Open. 

He has then transferred this affinity with links golf to the pro ranks. Twice playing in this event, finishing 32nd on debut in 2018 and improving dramatically on this in 2019, when finishing 5th. Also going well in the British Masters at Hillside in 2019, finishing 15th. Even the faux links courses in the Scottish Open and Hero Open this year proved to be to his liking, recording 18th and 6th place finishes respectively.

He started the year in pretty poor form but has sparked into life over recent months, producing six top 20s in his last 10 starts. That 6th in the Hero Open one of two top 10s, the other his best performance of the year, when he finished 4th at the European Masters three starts ago.

Every part of his game has improved during this run, though it’s fair to say his tee-to-green game is the standout. Though, to be fair, he has also put up some much improved performances with the putter over recent weeks.

If able to replicate that, he can come full circle and find success as a professional, at the scene of one of his biggest wins as an amateur. 

Antoine Rozner E/W (6 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-28 11:45 Odds subject to change.

A couple of big hitters at what look like big prices now, starting with Antoine Rozner. A player who’s won twice in less than 12 months, though hasn’t quite kicked on this year after winning the Qatar Masters in March. Having said that, he’s on a run of nine straight cuts made and has proven capable of handling conditions that potentially await the players this week.

That win in the Qatar Masters is a huge pointer in that sense. As mentioned with Donaldson, the conditions that week were tough, at times brutal because of the wind. He also performed well in Mauritius in 2019, finishing 2nd. An exposed setup that virtually borders the Indian Ocean, making it extremely vulnerable to windy conditions. 

He doesn’t have much of a record at links golf from his amateur days, besides a quarter final loss in the 2015 Amateur Championship. Though he did make the cut at both the Scottish Open and Open Championship this year, finishing down the field in albeit quality company.

He’s an excellent driver, ranking 3rd off-the-tee and has been in strong form with his irons this year, ranking 40th. The short game is solid enough, with the putter his Achilles heel.

All that considered I do think he’s a big price here. He’ll handle the conditions and has shown himself to be a player that possesses an excellent winning mentality. Rarely shying away when in contention to win, he’s a player to be feared if he can get himself into contention heading into Sunday.

Golf tips
Ryan Fox E/W (7 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-28 11:35 Odds subject to change.

At the same price, Ryan Fox also goes into the staking plan, showing himself over the years, as being a lover of the links and these kind of conditions.

He was the runner-up in the 2018 Irish Open, finishing 4th the year prior. A similar story of success in Scotland, finishing 4th in the 2017 Scottish Open and 6th in the 2018 renewal. Only missing one cut in five starts in the Open Championship, with a best of 16th in 2019. 

Performances like his 6th in the Saudi International this year, not a links course but an exposed setup that has had windy conditions most years, points to a player who could be dangerous this week. He just enjoys this type of golf, no doubt down to his growing up in New Zealand, a country awash with exposed, links like courses that are always susceptible to windy conditions.

He’s had a solid year so far, only missing four cuts but would’ve liked to have contended a little more. As a good driver of the ball and possessing an excellent short game, he has the tools to handle this week’s conditions and off the back of a positive putting performance on his last start in the Netherlands, an area of his game that he is usually found wanting, I’m expecting a big performance from the big hitting Aucklander.

Grant Forrest E/W (7 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-28 11:40 Odds subject to change.

It would be borderline sacrilege to not have a Scotsman on board in this event and I think recent first time winner, Grant Forrest, picking up that title a stone’s throw away from the Old Course, at Fairmont St Andrews in the Hero Open a few weeks ago, looks a big price with a game and the experience for this test.

That game is one in which sees him excel in most areas, ranking inside the top 50 for each of driving, putting and around the greens. Which should stand him in good stead if the difficult conditions materialise.

As you would expect, he has a great history with links golf, going back right back to his amateur days. Like Matthew Jordan, he’s a past winner of the St Andrews Links Trophy, winning the title in 2014. Going back even further he won the Scottish Amateur in 2012 at Royal Dornach Golf Club. Also a runner-up in the prestigious Amateur Championship in 2015, at Carnoustie. 

With a storied experience at these courses and the confidence he would’ve gained from picking up that first title, I found Forrest the most interesting of the Scottish contingent and expect him to relish the tricky conditions this week.

Romain Langasque E/W (7 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-09-28 11:40 Odds subject to change.

Finally, we come to a player at a huge price, who has a proven track record at links golf, as the man who beat Grant Forrest in the aforementioned Amateur Championship final at Carnoustie in 2015, France’s Romain Langasque.

It’s been a difficult year for Langasque but he’s started to show some positive signs in recent weeks. Finally coming together with a 22nd place finish in the Dutch Open last time out. Due, predominantly, to an excellent week off the tee, that saw him rank 6th in the field.

That has really been the story of his year, he’s driven it well and been decent around the greens but struggled with his irons and on the greens. 

This type of test is ideal for him though. Along with that Amateur Championship win, he went well on a number of occasions in the St Andrews Links Trophy as an amateur. Showing further love for golf in Scotland by finishing 3rd in the Scottish Open in 2019 as a professional.

We can even use that solo European Tour victory, that came in the Wales Open last year, as a pointer to his chances. As he made his way through the field in tough, windy conditions in round four to win by two shots.

This shows a player who relishes these conditions and with a proven track record at a couple of these courses, he can build on the promise he showed last time out and go well at the “Home of Golf”.

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