Main Bet: Matthew Jordan each-way @ 28/1
Back in 2010, ahead of the Open, Dave Tindall and myself played this week’s venue, the Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews.
Seven years later I returned there, midway through a jog along the coastline from Kingsbarns to St Andrews during Women’s Open week, and I utilised the facade of good etiquette to stop for a much-needed breather as I watched a bit of the action on the cliff tops overlooking the North Sea and the auld grey toun.
It’s not extensive course experience, but it was enough to confirm that links expertise will be an advantage.
As with so many modern links designs, the precise dynamic is not quite old school – the shapers can never entirely achieve what nature and time have – but those golfers who have proved themselves adept by the coast, and whose imagination is fuelled by rolling terrain, will see enough here to be happy.
Perhaps an equally important skill set this week will be resilience because it will be cold and blustery – and could easily become colder and more blustery at any given moment.
The three picks, therefore, share proven links pedigree with at least some of that form coming in the Dunhill Links, played at this time of year so in similar conditions.
First up is Matthew Jordan the 24-year-old Englishman whose amateur career highlighted a fondness for links golf and whose early professional forays have backed it up.
As a member of Royal Liverpool, he’s naturally had plenty of experience negotiating the slings and arrows of this form of the game – and he’ll be well-used to playing it with a cold and nasty wind whipping in from the Irish Sea.
He lifted the St Andrews Links Trophy in 2017 (playing one round on the Jubilee Course and three on the Old Course) and was also a startling nine-shot winner of the Lytham Trophy a year later (no-one else in the field broke par; he was 8-under).
Upon turning pro he earned an invite to the Dunhill Links and, perhaps a little over-awed, slipped to a first day 77, but remained steadfast, adding a 67 and a 66 to make the cut with ease at T20th and ended the week T32nd.
In May 2019 he was handed another invitation on the links and again made the most of it, carding a first round 63 at Hillside, good for an early two-shot lead, on his way to T15th in the British Masters.
By season’s end he’d secured a card via the Challenge Tour rankings and celebrated with tied fifth in the Dunhill Links, this time leading the field after 36 holes.
So, in three linksland starts on the European Tour, he’s held a solo end-of-round advantage in two of them and raced through the field in the third.
Can he time it right and find himself in the mix come the end of this week? He’s surely got a great chance in a field poorer than those three and his form has been bubbling too.
In his last four starts he’s been third in the Wales Open, in the top five at halfway in both the UK Championship and Portugal Masters on his way to top 20s, and although he was T52nd at Valderrama the fact he made the weekend with a Friday 69 after opening with an 81 hints at a certain fortitude and hunger.
Next Best: Matthew Southgate each-way @ 40/1
Another Matthew, another Englishman, another fellow who likes playing golf by the seaside.
In fact, another St Andrews Links Trophy winner because Southend’s Matthew Southgate lifted that bauble seven years before Jordan, a week which, he revealed in commentator Richard Kaufman’s podcast The Round, began with him doubting his future in the game and ended with confirmation he had one.
It’s become widely known that the 32-year-old is a Carnoustie member so it seemed as if sooner or later he would have a good crack at the Dunhill Links and so it transpired last year when only a superb Victor Perez performance prevented him lifting a first title.
That effort also backed up a series of fine links efforts in the pro ranks, taking in repeat Open Qualifying success at Royal Cinque Ports, a minor tour win at Royal St Georges, two Open top ten finishes and tied second at Portstewart in the Irish Open.
You could even throw in the first time he found himself in the heat of European Tour battle at the weekend (tied second at halfway in the 2013 Scottish Open at Castle Stuart) and the first time he slept on a 54-hole lead at this level (at links-like Al Mouj).
He was tied ninth two weeks ago in the Scottish Open and finished the BMW PGA Championship with four birdies in six holes.
At both events he ranked second for Greens in Regulation, a category that was a strength of his for a long while, but in which, following the Dunhill last year, he’d started to struggle.
Last year he cut a slightly miserable figure after missing the cut at Wentworth, but bounced back in his linksland happy place; this year he had every reason to leave Tour HQ in a chipper mood and seeing Perez contend there might further remind him of his ability to mix it at the top.
Final Bet: Callum Shinkwin each-way @ 66/1
Another Englishman, but no Matthew this time.
But 27-year-old Callum Shinkwin likes the linksland and often his preference is for the more modern creations.
The first sign of that was when he ended his 2015 Challenge Tour graduation campaign with tied third at Al Mouj.
The following summer he landed a first main tour top ten at Le Golf National and a second one week later at Castle Stuart.
Twelve months on he seemed set to claim a first European Tour triumph in the Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.
Somehow a mostly accomplished final day performance turned into play-off defeat and he suffered a hangover in 2018.
Nonetheless, his fondness for seaside golf has endured with top tens at 13th Beach in Australia and last year’s Dunhill Links.
He played well in Wales a few weeks ago (T11th and tied eighth), then raced through the field during the filthy Saturday weather in the Scottish Open at The Renaissance a fortnight ago.
He was 4-under through 17 holes that day until making a triple bogey-7 at the final hole when a par would have seen him head into the final day tied for second.
It was an encouraging effort and he can back it up.