Brilliant young South African golfer Branden Grace believes he can become the first golfer to win back-to-back Alfred Dunhill Links Championships when he defends his title at St Andrews next month.
And to ensure he has the best possible chance, he is planning to recreate the build-up timetable which worked so well last year.
Speaking to www.alfreddunhilllinks.com, Branden said: “I would hope I can win again. I am going to try and do things exactly the same as I did last year to give me the best chance. I am going to take a break before the event, go home to my base at Fancourt in South Africa to get the feel of links golf again and experience the wind and the slopes, then come to Scotland. I can’t wait to get to St Andrews next month.”
His victory in 2012, at 24 years and 140 days, made him the youngest winner in Alfred Dunhill Links Championship history. It was his fourth success of the season on the European Tour, matching the achievement of some of the greatest names in golf – Seve Ballesteros, Ernie Els, Sir Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods among them.
From the moment he shot a spectacular first round 60 at Kingsbarns, Grace, one of the best front-runners in golf, was a hot favourite to win. “The Dunhill was the one I really wanted to wi n, with all the history that goes around it. It is one of the biggest for the guys in Europe and winning in that style was just spectacular. It’s my biggest victory so far,” he said.
Grace says he has been happy with his form this year, although he has not yet won. Most recently he missed the cut in last week’s PGA Championship.
“This year has been a tough year being in the United States the majority of the time, which requires a few adjustments – new courses and it’s very different to playing in Europe or South Africa. This is just another one of those hurdles I have to get over. I feel like I’m swinging very good. Although I haven’t had a win this year, I have improved my world ranking and as long as you are doing that you are getting something right. I am still happy with how the year has gone so far.”
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which celebrates links golf at its finest, is 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.
With a prize fund of $5 million, the Championship incorporates two separate competitions – an individual professional tournament for the world's leading golfers and a team event in which the professionals are paired with some of the most celebrated amateur golfers which creates a unique atmosphere.
Among the amateurs who have played in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship are film and TV stars Andy Garcia, Hugh Grant, Kyle MacLachlan and John O’Hurley and music legends Don Felder of the Eagles, Huey Lewis and Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres.
There is always a strong sporting feel to the amateur field, which has included Olympic legends Michael Phelps, Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave, Dutch football stars Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit, former England player Jamie Redknapp and Scottish defender Alan Hansen, Britain’s former No 1 tennis star Tim Henman, and a strong team of cricketers in Sir Ian Botham, Michael Vaughan and Shane Warne.