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Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 12 May 2021
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In the swing: Northern lights shine brightest at Dunhill Links

The rich and famous teed up alongside some of the world’s best pros at the Alfred Dunhill Links last weekend. Even Padraig Harrington had a smile on his face, writes Neil Cullen.

Actor Hugh Grant warms up at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Friday.
Actor Hugh Grant warms up at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Friday.
Image: David Cheskin/PA Wire/Press Association Images

WITH THE FEDEX CUP completed, the focus of world golf moved swiftly back to this side of the pond this weekend as the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was played out in Scotland.

The European Tour has some big events coming over the next few weeks in advance of the Race to Dubai finale which reaches its climax in December.

The Alfred Dunhill Links is a very unique tournament in that it is played over three different golf courses (Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St. Andrews) and it also involved amateurs.

It’s one of those events that attracts a little extra interest because people get to see celebrities tee it up alongside the pros. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see what someone like Samuel L. Jackson is like when he gets a driver in his hand?

There even something for the ladies. How would you fancy Hugh Grant on the range?

You could probably argue that these events are just an opportunity for rich people to feel like they’re professional golfers for a few days, but there’s no denying the fun of the event as well. It broadens the appeal of the game and offers something a little different to those who may not normally spend their weekend watching golf on television.

The fact that it’s played over three courses also brings more variety to the viewer. Instead of seeing the same holes for four days, you get to see different courses providing different challenges, players having to play a wider variety of shots and having to think on their feet a little more. It all contributes to a more entertaining event than the standard 72-hole medal play.

The fact that the courses are some of the most beautiful in the world also helps.

Northern promise

The tournament reinforced the strength of Northern Irish golf.

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As Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Micheal Hoey all battled it out for first prize over the course of the final round, you would have been excused for thinking Michael Hoey may have come up just a tad short. Let’s be honest, you’re talking about two Major winners against a guy who was ranked 271 in the world.

Hoey didn’t let the pressure get to him, though. He didn’t exactly get out of the blocks quickly in his final round, but patience is a massive part of golf. The more you go chasing the game, the quicker it begins to run away from you.

Hoey avoided that trap, stayed patient, and managed three birdies over the final four holes to win by two shots.

His approach shot into the 16th hole was particularly special. At a crucial point in the round, with the difficult 17th hole still to navigate, he hit a perfect second shot into about 18 inches for a tap-in birdie. That one shot gave him a slight cushion on the scoreboard which would have been invaluable for his confidence and belief.

Q-School

Much of his belief probably came from having to go through European Tour Qualification School on six occasions.

Q-School, as it’s known, is notoriously gruelling and competitive and most golfers never make it through. Depending on at what stage you enter the qualification process you play a minimum of six to a maximum of 14 rounds, and only the top 30 players by the end get a tour card.

The pressure of Q-School is intense like no other, because people are putting their livelihood on the line. Michael Hoey has had years where he earned less than €10,000 on the European Tour.

The strength gained from going through that can only have helped him on his way to picking up yesterday’s winner’s cheque of just over €588,000.

It was also nice to see Padraig Harrington with a smile on his face again. The three-time Major winner finished eighth, which represents his highest finish in a European Tour event this season. His birdie on the 72nd hole brought a wide smile to his face, something we haven’t seen with Harrington in a long time.

Since changing his swing coach, there seem to be signs of progress for Harrington and this tournament will certainly give him a boost, both in the Race to Dubai standings and in his own confidence.

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