The European Tour returns to the Home of Golf for this week's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and Matt Cooper has three selections with the Betfair Sportsbook paying seven places...
"He had a first taste of being in the last group out on a Sunday at the European Masters – a fantastic learning experience and he didn’t waste it, finishing tied fourth."
Main Bet: Matthew Jordan 1pt each-way @ 66/1
It was on the linksland that England's Matthew Jordan first found himself at the head of a European Tour leaderboard and this week gives him a great opportunity to return to those heights.
The 25-year-old got himself an invitation to the 2019 British Masters at Hillside and although he was far from untested at that level - he'd made a handful of starts on the circuit the previous year after turning pro and had made a bright start to his first Challenge Tour campaign - a brilliant 63 left him sitting two blows clear of the field at the end of the first round.
In truth, it was far from a surprise that he had thrived by the sea.
The previous October he'd made his debut in this event and, after a nervy 77 on Thursday, he made the cut with laps of 67-66.
Moreover, the invitation to play that year was prompted by the promise he'd repeatedly displayed as an amateur: he won the 2017 St Andrews Links Trophy (which 2019 Dunhill Links runner-up Matthew Southgate also claimed) and was a winner (by nine strokes no less) of the following year's Lytham Trophy.
And when interviewed by the press following that swift start at Hillside he admitted that his home base in Hoylake was an obvious help too. "Because I play at Royal Liverpool," he said, "you kind of get used to shooting under-par off championship tees."
He graduated from the second tier later in 2019 and also had a second crack at this event which witnessed yet more high-quality links golf.
He opened with a 66 at Kingsbarns which led him to say: "This place is great. It's hard to get depressed around here. If you have a bogey, you just look out toward the sea and all your troubles go away kind of thing. This is one of the most scenic courses I've ever played. It's brilliant."
He backed that up with a 64 on the Old Course to lead by one at halfway ahead of finishing tied fifth.
His first two main tour campaigns haven't permitted him to play lots of links golf, but when he's had the opportunity he's thrived again: T20th at 13th Beach in Australia and T25th at Fairmont St Andrews last year, T18th at the Renaissance Club this year and then tied sixth on his return to the Fairmont.
He also had a first taste of being in the last group out on a Sunday at the European Masters - a fantastic learning experience and he didn't waste it, finishing tied fourth.
He's got a great chance to build on that this week in a spot that really suits him.
Next Best: Ryan Fox 1pt each-way @ 66/1
At first glance Kiwi Ryan Fox, who has collected plenty of good finishes at other links-based tournaments, does not have the greatest record in this event.
But peer closer and he's played plenty of good golf, he's just not yet quite put it all together in the same week.
The raw details shows that he's made four Dunhill starts with a best of T24th in 2018.
But he carded a 66 on debut in 2015 and opened with a 68 for tied third on Thursday evening a year later.
In 2018 he spent the first three rounds in the top 15, including tied eighth at halfway, and two years ago he was in the top five through the first 36 holes.
Elsewhere on the Scottish and Irish coastlines he's finished tied fourth at Dundonald Links and tied sixth at Gullane in the Scottish Open, and tied fourth at Portstewart and tied second at Ballyliffin in the Irish Open.
He's also been T16th at Royal Portrush in the Open, made the cut at Royal St George's this summer, and responded well to a slow start at Fairmont St Andrews (understandable after he flew in late from the Olympics in Japan), recording three closing laps in the 60s.
Earlier this month he made the cut at Wentworth and built on that with T15th in the Dutch Open.
This could be the week when he has the really good crack at this event that is definitely in him.
Final bet: Martin Kaymer 1pt each-way @ 50/1
It's a tricky business attempting to unpick the likely responses of the European Ryder Cup team members who tee it up this week, a project that is by no means aided and abetted by a glance at the record books.
The only other European teams in this century to return vanquished were those in 2008 and 2016.
In the first of those Robert Karlsson brushed off his disappointment at Valhalla by winning this event and three of his team-mates finished in the top 10.
Eight years later, however, six players teed it up in this event and five of them didn't make the top 30. The exception was Martin Kaymer, whose sang froid permitted him to land tied sixth.
Intriguingly, the German was also at Valhalla in 2008, invited there to soak up the atmosphere by Nick Faldo. Just as he would be after Hazeltine, the European defeat didn't faze him - he made the play-off in this event.
I'm going to give him the chance of landing the hat-trick of Home of Golf pick-me-ups, a week after he was vice-captain at Whistling Straits.
It's an event he likes (he was a winner in 2010, was tied seventh in 2013 and has contended in other years) and it strikes me as just the sort of week in which he might finally end his win drought.
When last seen (playing) on the course he completed a neat T25th at Wentworth
MATT'S 2021 P/L
2020 P/L: -32pts
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