Trust Tyrrell to land links success


2pts each-way Tyrrell Hatton @ 14/1
1.5pts each-way Louis Oosthuizen @ 28/1
1pt each-way Oliver Wilson @ 150/1
1pt each-way Shane Lowry @ 10/1
1pt each-way Victor Perez @ 28/1
0.5pt each-way Joakim Lagergren @ 80/1

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It’s a horses-for-courses week up on Scotland’s East Course where the Alfred Dunhill Links Pro-Am gives Tyrrell Hatton a belated opportunity to grab his first victory of a frustrating year and his third at the Home of Golf in one of the strongest fields ever assembled.

Headed by world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, US Open hero Matt Fitzpatrick and BMW PGA champion Shane Lowry, the volatile Hatton will need to be at his best on the three great links of St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns to beat the Big Three but there were strong signals from his last-time-out eighth at the Italian Open that he’s ready to fire.

Not noted as being the most patient of golfers, it’s perhaps surprising that he has such a stellar record in this huge gathering of top professionals and stars of sport and showbiz.

If watching five-hour rounds (on a good day), often in fierce winds and/or rain with plenty of waiting around floats your boat, there’s good news as entry is free for the first three days. With action on three different courses in two different counties, Fife and Angus, keeping up to speed with scoreboards can be tricky for punters.

The ponderous format never seems to faze Hatton who was a combined 47 under par in posting back-to-back Dunhill triumphs in 2016-17 and following that by a brace of near-misses when he tied for second behind Lucas Beauregaard in 2018 and Danny Willett last year.

The enormous field of 180 professionals partner 180 amateurs on the three different links over the first 54 holes when a cut is made, leaving 60 pros and the 20 best pro-am teams to battle it on St Andrews on Sunday.

It’s not going to be warm but the compensation is that three days look set fair with the only downpour coming on Friday. On a still day, the host course (7278 yards) is probably the easiest of the three and 7412-yard Carnoustie (or Carnasty as many who have suffered there call it) the toughest in wind and rain).

Kingsbarns, a modern Kyle Phillips-designed links, one of the American architect’s best, opened in 2000. At 7150 yards, it is the prettiest. All three have a par of 72.

Adding strength to the field are two decent Americans, the ever-popular Billy Horschel and LIV defector Talor Gooch, plus South African aces Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel, all three LIV pioneers.

Schwartzel won LIV’s debut tournament at St Albans, speedily followed by Grace dotting up in Portland.
Oosthuizen has yet to dazzle with LIV but has distinguished course credentials as the Open champion at St Andrews in 2010. ‘Shrek’ almost pulled it off again five years later when unlucky to go down in a four-hole playoff to the next US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson.

While his LIV record (10-5-20-10-6) is nothing to write home about, he’s the most likely renegade to embarrass the powers-that-be by running off the trophy.

As long as it doesn’t blow, McIlroy is the obvious one to beat. Not a regular at the Dunhill, he was T2 back in 2014 when Oliver Wilson, long written off as a yesterday’s man, stunned the golfing world by belatedly winning for the first time.

It took Wilson eight more years to win again. No.2 came in Denmark last month and this quiet Englishman could be the pick of the outsiders along with course specialist Joakim Lagergren who seems to come alive in this event.

The Swede has had a miserable year so far and you have to go back to the first week of June to uncover his last top-20 (5th European Open) but don’t be put off – his Dunhill record is a bit special, runner-up to Danny Willett last year, third to Victor Perez in 2019 (no tournament in 2020 because of Covid), fourth to Hatton in 2016, 12th in 2017 and fourth again to Thorbjorn Olesen in 2015. Yet he’s a big price this week.

If he has any petrol in the tank after two exhausting weeks, third to Bob MacIntyre in Rome and a 30th to Guido Migliozzi in Paris at the weekend that looked like being a whole lot better for a long time, Perez has to be in the mix.

Not only did he shoot 22 under to win this in 2019, it is as much a home game to the Frenchman as Le National as he lives just up the road from Carnoustie in Dundee where his partner Abigail is studying dentistry.

The very sociable Lowry, finally a winner again after drawing a blank since the 2019 Open, loves the laid-back character of this tournament where he finished fourth last year. He is preferred to Fitzpatrick and Willett, both of whom should have won last time out, Matt in Italy, Danny on the PGA Tour in California. Triple-putting from 43 inches on the final green may still be giving him nightmares. He’ll be back but probably not yet.

Horschel scored just the one point on his Presidents Cup bow last week but was given only three outings. This great West Ham fan will have ex-Hammers star Mark Noble as his partner and should be in the shake-up in both individual and team competitions.


2pts each-way Sahith Theegala @ 18/1
1pt each-way Harris English @ 40/1
1pt each-way JT Poston @ 22/1
1pt each-way Byong-Hun An @ 66/1
1pt each-way Scott Stallings @ 25/1

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Defending champion Sam Burns goes into this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi as a warm favourite despite failing to win a single match for his country in the Presidents Cup. At 9/1 he has to be worth taking on.

Burns partnered his great pal and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler in four pairs matches which realised just half a point and then halved his Sunday singles at Quail Hollow with Hideki Matsuyama.

Yet it would be totally wrong to assume the world No. 12 played badly. From what we saw, he often looked the stronger partner and the nine birdies and an eagle they fired in the Friday fourballs to tie the best match of the week with Sungjae Im and Sebastian Munoz didn’t suggest either man was slacking.

Burns is 24 spots higher in the ranking than the next man teeing up at the Country Club of Jackson and winning there last October in a tight finish with Nick Watney and Cameron Young was the first of three in a brilliant 2021-22 wrap-around season, so it would be foolhardy to rule him out but he’s there to be shot at.

He’s the only member of the winning team to turn out in Mississippi and that’s presumably because he felt that as the reigning champion it would be rude not to.

The only one of the gallant losing Internationals squad taking him on is Christian Bezuidenhout who beat Kevin Kisner in the final (dead) singles but seen only twice and was the lone unbeaten man in the 17.5-12.5 defeat in a closer match than expected. The omens for Europe’s chances in Rome next year are marginally better for seeing the decent fight the LIV-hit Internationals made of it after a desperate start as they had no one of the calibre of McIlroy and Rahm to call upon.

We’ve seen some strange winners of the Sanderson Farms since it moved to its current venue, a traditional, parkland Donald Ross layout with smallish greens and updated to set up as 7461-yard par 72.

How about Cody Gribble, Peter Malnati and that old plodder Ryan Armour? It was Armour’s first tour win at 41 and so far the only win for Munoz in 2019 while lefty Gribble and Malnati have since sunk almost without trace.

Victory for main fancies Sahith Theegala and Harris English this week would come as far less of a shock.
Theegala would have got off the mark before now had Lady Luck been kinder with the lie in a fairway bunker on the last at the Travelers – second to Xander Schauffele there the pick of his eight top-tens – and the big Californian opened the new campaign with an eyecatching sixth at the Fortinet. The loose-limbed 24-year-old also has form at Jackson (8th last year). He is a young, extravagant talent with the best yet to come.

English is just the opposite. He’s been around a long while, had to take five months out of the game for hip surgery last year – having won the Tournament of Champions and Travelers to earn a Ryder Cup place in 2021 – had a rotten 2022 when mainly not 100 per cent fit but showed with ninth place that he’s back on the horse and ready to roll.

A class act in a weakish field, the 33-year-old from Georgia had a T6 at Jackson in 2019 and if he is not quite mentally ripe to finish the job this week, stick with him in tournaments of similar standard.

Next on my shopping list are JT Poston and Scott Stallings who were third and sixth here to Sergio Garcia in 2020.

Poston had a golden spell last year, almost winning back to back at Travelers and the John Deere Classic, winning the latter, then maintaining that form with six good efforts to finish 21-22 in style while long-server Stallings is enjoying a renaissance after years as an also-ran thanks mainly to slimming down in a new fitness regime.

The 37-year-old failed to add to his early-career three-win haul but it wasn’t for the want of trying, second place in the BMW the pick of four top-tens in his last eight starts.

Local boy Davis Riley had a great mid-season spell and the Hattiesburg youngster can count on plenty of support while Trey Mullinax has looked more confident since breaking through at Barbasol. But as both missed the cut in Jackson last year – and Riley took an early bath last week too – this may not be their week.

More compelling cases can be made for new boy Taylor Montgomery and Byung-Hun An (better known these days as Benny). Both finished right on the heels of winner Max Homa in Napa.

Montgomery posted nine top-tens between late March and late August on the satellite Korn Ferry circuit and was the leading birdie-maker there, just the job for Jackson where Burns’ 22 under was a record-break. But at 25/1 the bookies have taken the juice out of his price. After all, he didn’t actually win on the KFT.

An, often the bridesmaid but never the bride on the main tour, had to return to the Korn Ferry after losing his card, finally won there in February and is back with the big boys again. He’s been punching the heavy bag to boost his swing speed and upper-body movement and could be each-way value.

Sepp Straka, Keegan Bradley and Thomas Detry are three more worth considering.

Stand by for four days of relentless sunshine and temperatures in the high 20s in the Deep South.

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