Tuesday, September 08, 2009

McIlroy and Westwood in Alfred Dunhill Links

England’s Lee Westwood and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who finished tied third together in last month’s US PGA Championship at Hazeltine, will be challenging for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship title at St Andrews next month against a strong international field. It was the second time during the year that Westwood has been third in a Major Championship, also finishing behind Stewart Cink and Tom Watson in The Open Championship at Turnberry. Westwood says he has happy memories of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, winning by a stroke from Ernie Els in 2003, a year when he shot a course record 62 at Kingsbarns, which famously included an albatross two when he holed his four iron second shot on the 558 yard par five ninth. Westwood said: "I feel I have had a good year and played well, without quite managing to win a big tournament. To finish third in The Open and the US PGA showed some consistency in Major Championships which is important, even though it was a little disappointing not to win. I have happy memories of the Dunhill in 2003, especially the 62 at Kingsbarns and the final round 67 on the Old Course to beat Ernie. Hopefully I may be able to repeat that. I'm looking forward to it." Rory McIlroy, still just 20, has also enjoyed playing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He shot a final round 68 on the Old Course in 2007 – a round which included eight birdies – to finish third behind Nick Dougherty, in his second event as a professional. McIlroy said: "St Andrews is always a course where I have played well and I could have won in 2007, but the par fives cost me on that final round. I really enjoy links golf so I am definitely looking forward to the Dunhill. Hopefully this year I can do even better." Also in the field will be defending champion Robert Karlsson of Sweden and England’s Ross Fisher who he beat in a sudden death play-off last year, plus three-time Major Champion and double Alfred Dunhill Links Championship winner Padraig Harrington, who will be joined by all the other former winners - Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, Colin Montgomerie and Stephen Gallacher, and England’s Nick Dougherty. In addition to a strong British line-up, which includes World Number Three Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, the championship as usual will have a unique international flavour, with South Africa’s Ernie Els, the 2002 Open Champion and twice winner of the US Open Championship, heading the overseas challenge. The championship was conceived as a celebration of links golf and will be played over three of the world’s best known and respected links courses – the Old Course at St Andrews, the Championship Course at Carnoustie, and the highly regarded Kingsbarns Golf Links. The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship has a unique format. With a prize fund of US$5 million, it incorporates two separate competitions - an individual professional tournament for the world's leading golfers and a team event in which they are paired with some of the most celebrated amateur golfers. Among the amateurs who played last year were film and television stars Hugh Grant, Samuel L.Jackson, Dougray Scott and Luke Wilson, and music legends Don Felder from the Eagles, Ronan Keating, Huey Lewis and Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres. Many of the world’s great sports stars also took part including football’s Sir Bobby Charlton, Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit and Jamie Redknapp, world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, Olympic rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave, British tennis hero Tim Henman, American Football running back Marcus Allen, downhill ski star Franz Klammer, and former rugby players Sean Fitzpatrick, Gavin Hastings and Morné du Plessis. Cricket was represented by India’s Kapil Dev, England’s Sir Ian Botham, Mark Nicholas and Michael Vaughan, South Africa’s Shaun Pollock and Australian spin legend Shane Warne. 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 4. Entry for under 16s and students is free. Tickets are available through the ticket hotline on 0870 010 9021 or at the entrance gates. There is free parking for spectators and a free shuttle bus service will be in operation between the courses on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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