Ryder Cup stars Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood return to the Home of Golf for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on a high following Team Europe’s stunning 17½-10½ Ryder Cup victory in France.
Played over three of the world’s most famous and stunning courses in St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, the event which combines world class golf with celebrity is one of the most anticipated on the European Tour International Schedule.
Defending champion Hatton insists there will be no Ryder Cup fatigue when he goes in search of a hat-trick of wins, with the Englishman’s victory at this event 12 months ago kick-starting his bid to make the Ryder Cup Team, and he followed up with another victory the following week at the Italian Open.
Countryman Tommy Fleetwood was another Ryder Cup rookie last week, forming a brilliant partnership with Francesco Molinari to claim four points out of four, equalling Thomas Pieters’ record at Hazeltine in 2016, before losing his only match of the week in the singles to Tony Finau.
The reigning Race to Dubai champion, who recorded a nine under par 63 course record at Carnoustie during last year’s event, admits it was the “number one experience I’ve ever had as a golfer” but is keeping his eye on the prize over the closing months of the season, starting this week.
United States Ryder Cup stars Brooks Koepka and Finau will have an immediate opportunity to banish the demons of last week’s defeat at Le Golf National when they tee it up in Scotland this week.
Koepka finished second here on his last appearance in 2015 and has since gone to become a three-time Major Championship winner, currently holding both the US Open and US PGA Championship titles.
His long-time caddie Ricky Elliott will be his pro-am playing partner this week, with brother Chase in his group over the first three days, and the 28 year old is glad to be back in Scotland where he recorded one of his four Challenge Tour victories.
Tyrrell Hatton: “It’s definitely more relaxed than other weeks, which I guess helps me. I enjoy the golf courses and obviously winning here the previous two years, it’s great to be back.
“I feel like my game is in a good place. I’ll be trying my best this week to make it three in a row. I’ll have to see what happens but I don’t feel too bad after Sunday’s celebrations.
“I’ll certainly be trying my best to win this week. All I can do is try my best, so just have to see what happens.
“It’s a special place. It’s got a certain feeling about it, standing on that first tee, you hope you don’t miss the fairway. It’s just great to be back. It’s the Home of Golf and we get to play two other great courses as well.”
“I’ll certainly try my best to be on the Team in two years’ time. The guys said last week, once you play one Ryder Cup, that you never want to miss the Team again, and I’ll certainly be no different from that. I actually loved last week, being part of the Team is very special.
I can only try my best each week. You never know what’s around the corner with golf. That’s all you can do, try your best and see what happens.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “Leading up to the Ryder Cup, you don’t know how you’re going to feel straight after it because it’s such an intense week. At the moment I feel okay and last night I was with my psychologist and we were kind of looking at trying to reset for the year.
“I’ve still got World Ranking points to earn, still got tournaments I can win. There’s still a chance in the Race to Dubai – I’m a long way to behind but we know that Justin (Rose) did it last year and ultimately, probably, it was in his hands on the back nine.
“There’s still things that are there that I’d like to do and like to achieve and improving your golf game. So there’s still plenty of things to reset and look forward to and take that amazing experience and try and build on it.
“I was nervous on the first tee, and definitely towards the end of that round, I was nervous coming to the end because our match actually ended up being a really big match. But I have a good handle on things. I think I generally have a good mentality. I’m not saying I have a calmness about me, but I have a good respect about things, and I felt like I had the ability and the confidence to get through that.
“I was a rookie. I was playing with one of my best friends, Fran (Francesco Molinari), who definitely doesn’t make you nervous when he’s next to you, and he led me very well, so I was lucky to have that. But in general, I’d say the last two or three years of my career, and my life, what I’ve done, I think has helped me towards big moments like that.”
Brooks Koepka: “I love Scotland. It’s where my career, I guess, kind of jumped off. It was my first start on the European Tour. It’s where my final win was on the Challenge Tour. It kind of brings back all those memories.
“St. Andrews is my favourite place to play golf. I’ve said it before in different press conferences or wherever someone might ask, where my favourite place to play is, it’s always St. Andrews. No question about it.
“It will be nice to go out and play golf and play with my brother. I don’t think I’ve played golf with him in maybe two years. The last time I teed it up with him was at the Zurich. We don’t get to play golf too often, and to be paired with him is pretty special. My family’s here. They are coming over here, and I have my best friend on my bag and I have my caddie playing. You know, hopefully try to make the best of this week.”