Stars on course for annual extravaganza

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BIG-TIME golf returned to Carnoustie this week when the top players and famous amateurs descended on the town for the annual Dunhill Links Championship which began yesterday (Thursday).

Billed as a celebration of links golf, the Dunhill is always eagerly awaited as top golfers team up with amateurs from the world of sport, stage, screen and business.

And with a few of our recently crowned Ryder Cup heroes taking part it also provides an opportunity for local fans to salute their achievement at Medinah at the weekend.

Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer who sunk the winning putt on Sunday and our very own Paul Lawrie all took a bow at Carnoustie yesterday, as did vice-captains Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley.

Fellow vice-captains Miguel Angel-Jimenez (9 a.m.) and Thomas Bjorn (9.22 a.m.) are at Carnoustie today (Friday).

Also playing the famous Championship Course yesterday was Open champion Ernie Els, paralympic Oscar Pistorious and the most decorated Olympian in history swimmer Michael Phelps.

Two-time winner Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie, Bill Murray and Huey Lewis were just some of the names also gracing Carnoustie today.

The prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship 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 – for three days, with the final round to be played on the Old Course on Sunday.

The Championship has a unique format. With a prize fund of US$5 million, it incorporates two separate competitions - an individual professional tournament for the world’s leading golfers and a team event in which they are paired with some of the most celebrated amateurs.

There are no fewer than 10 Major Championship winners in the field. In addition to Kaymer, Lawrie and Clarke, current Open champion Ernie Els leads a strong South African contingent, including 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and 2011 US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, while other Major winners playing are Americans Rich Beem and Shaun Micheel and New Zealand’s Michael Campbell.

Ireland’s three-time Major winner Harrington will be bidding for a unique third Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, having taken the title in 2002 and 2006

In a strong turnout of sports stars, Phelps and Pistorius will be joined by former Olympic rowing legends Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave, Dutch football legends Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit, former England player Jamie Redknapp, Scottish defender Alan Hansen, a strong team of cricketers in Sir Ian Botham, Brian Lara, Andrew Strauss, Steve Waugh and Shane Warne and rugby’s Schalk Brits, Morné du Plessis and Gavin Hastings.

Entrance to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is free at all three courses today (Friday) and Saturday. A ticket price of £15 (concessionary £10) will be charged for the final day’s play over the Old Course on Sunday. Entry for under-16s and students is free. Tickets are available through the ticket hotline on 0844 581 4922 or at the entrance gates.

For full draws for today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) log on to http://www.alfreddunhilllinks.com.

l Turn to page 31 for more pictures from the opening day