The Irishman claimed his maiden Major title at Royal Portrush more than two years ago and also won the Irish Open as an amateur on a links course, County Louth Golf Club, in 2009.
He is joined this week by two of his fellow European Ryder Cup team members – Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton – as they tee it up at regular Open Championship venue Carnoustie Golf Links in round one, followed by the spectacular Kingsbarns Golf Links in round two and then play the iconic Old Course St Andrews, which hosts the final two rounds of the Pro-Am format event.
The trio are joined by three-time Major winner Pádraig Harrington, who goes from captain to competitor after leading the European side at Whistling Straits last week. The 50-year-old’s first of his back-to-back Open Championship victories came at Carnoustie in 2007.
Victor Perez defends this week having held the title of reigning Alfred Dunhill Links Champion for two years, the Frenchman earning his maiden win here by a one-stroke margin in 2019, while Billy Horschel makes his debut in the event having given his chances of winning the Race to Dubai a huge boost by winning the BMW PGA Championship, the third Rolex Series event of the 2021 season, less than three weeks ago.
Robert MacIntyre, Scotland’s highest-ranked golfer, leads the home charge this week having registered a top ten finish at The 2021 Open Championship at Royal St George’s in July, his last appearance on a links course.
Shane Lowry: “The reason I’m here this year is to come here and play with Gerry (McManus) and have a good time. My dad and his friends always come over. It’s a week that I do love and I love playing here and love. And look, playing golf at St Andrews is pretty cool, especially on days like today where it’s nice and sunny.
“So obviously it’s going to be a little bit of a comedown from last week. Be interesting to see how it goes. But look, I’ll just go out play my best and see what happens.
“It (the Ryder Cup) was something that I’ll always remember for the rest of my life and hopefully I can be involved in many more of them. It was nothing but fond memories of the whole week, obviously disappointed to lose but we gave it our all and that’s you can ask. Yeah, it was amazing.”
Billy Horschel: “This is a special opportunity. When we decided to play the Dunhill links, I think in July, I was curious if I could get my dad in to play this event because his birthday is on Friday. He turns 70. I had a surprise trip back him in America with 14 people, and so if I couldn’t play here with my dad this week, I’m not sure I would be here because I wanted to do something special for him. So it was great that Johann and his staff allowed me to play with him this week.
“St Andrews is such a beautiful place, beautiful golf course. To play Kingsbarns on Monday the first time and seeing it and people raved about it for years, truly was amazing. And I didn’t play The Open Championship in 2018 at Carnoustie, so that was the first time seeing it yesterday, and it’s a beast of a golf course and I can understand why it’s called Car-Nasty now, especially with the conditions that it looks like we’re going to be playing in this week. It’s going to bare its teeth full force this week.
“My game was in good shape a few weeks ago. It’s still in pretty good shape. I’m not nearly as sharp as I was in Wentworth. Home for two weeks. Didn’t do anything for about, seven, eight days at home. Just spent time relaxing coming off four weeks in a row, four big weeks in a row, and then picked up the clubs middle of last week and started practicing.
“So the game is not far off but there may be a few loose shots here and there. And then at the same time with the conditions that it looks like we’re going to have, it’s going to come down to some bounces and some luck here and there a little bit. But I’m still feeling very confident with my game is right now and we’ll see what happens, and hopefully I’ll have a chance to win this title come Sunday.”
Victor Perez: “It’s great (being champion for two years). It’s a little bit unusual obviously to not have played. Obviously last year was one of the events where you end up keeping your defence for a couple years, which is actually quite cool in a sense. It doesn’t happen often. It’s been fun. It’s great to be back. The weather is supposed to be a little iffy through the week, so we’ll see how it all plays out.
“I’ve had a first decent very good first year and then went on to the second year and played even better, and then all of a sudden I was in the Ryder Cup conversation, there was things, I was playing in majors, there’s just more things that happen over time, and you start to be under that spotlight where you have a little bit more pressure, which is generally just self-inflicted anyway, because you know, at the end of the day, you always think it’s a much bigger deal than it really is, but that’s always the case as a player.
“So I think it is always nice. I think you should enjoy as a player to be a little more under the spotlight anyway because that’s how it’s going to be when you come into big events, and you’re in the lead on the final round of a major, the Saturday night, they are going to always ask you how is it going to feel if you win tomorrow. You know, I think you have to get comfortable early on with those talks and being able to express yourself whichever way makes you feel good in a sense. I think it’s fun. I think it’s great and hopefully I can have the trophy again in four days.”
Robert MacIntyre: “It’s great to be back. It’s always good to play golf at the Home of Golf, and hopefully the weather kind of hangs on and we get a good side of the draw at least. I’m just looking forward to playing, playing again. Took a few weeks off there to just kind of refresh myself but now I’m just looking forward to getting going.
“The club stayed in the travel case that they went back from Wentworth in for about a week. I just went to spend time with family and friends. I’ve been travelling the world for the last 12 weeks, 15 weeks, I feel that I’ve hardly seen family and friends, and just to finally get home and have time to actually spend it with them. That was really the only way I was going to do it and now I’m feeling as ready as I can be for the week.
“I’ve not really reset goals. That’s one thing I’ll do at the end of the year. This year I’m just trying tos build on what I started the year on. I started really well, and the last eight weeks, I feel like I’ve just kind of plateaued out. Obviously missed a few cuts.
“But at the end of the day, if I go out here this week and I put on a good performance, them three missed cuts, no one’s talking about them. For me, I’m not really thinking about them, or I’m not thinking about them at all. I’m out here this week to try and win a golf tournament.”