Four members of Europe’s successful Ryder Cup team take their place in the field for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week alongside a Yorkshireman inspired to join their exclusive club.
Simon Dyson watched on in awe as his good friend Jamie Donaldson landed the killer blow that delivered a sixth win in seven contests at Gleneagles last weekend.
Suitably driven to try and achieve his own career high in two years’ time, Dyson begins his quest over three courses at a pro-am tournament he won five years ago.
The 37-year-old from Malton claimed the biggest prize of his career in 2009 in winning the Alfred Dunhill Links, and pipping Rory McIlroy to the title in the process.
McIlroy is in action again this week, feeding off the adrenalin generated by winning the Open, US PGA and the Ryder Cup in a golden period of golf.
Fellow Gleneagles heroes Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher are also in action in an event played at St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie.
The achievement of Gallacher, 39, and Donaldson, 38, in debuting at a Ryder Cup after a long career on the Tour gives hope to the likes of Dyson that such honours still lie in wait.
He has certainly been playing well enough this year, without ever troubling the winners’ enclosure, save for his customary run at the Dutch Open title last month.
With a proven track record of succeeding where he has prospered before, Dyson feels suitably confident over his chances this week.
“I love this tournament, it’s such a great tournament,” said Dyson, who begins his campaign at St Andrews, before heading to Carnoustie tomorrow and Kingsbarns on Saturday.
“You kind of need the right draw though. On Saturday afternoon you always see which has been the best course.
“Out of the top 10 you’ll see seven or eight guys all of which played the same course on a certain day.”
To ensure the best chance possible to be back at St Andrews on Sunday and in the title shake-up, Dyson had to visit the physio at the start of the week to rectify a back problem that forced his withdrawal from the Welsh Open two weeks ago.
“I hadn’t been swinging it that well because I’ve had the injury in the back of my mind,” he said.
“But then I saw one of the Tour physios and he just totally sorted me out and suddenly I can get in the positions I want to get in with the swing.
“I took that on the course and played lovely in the practice rounds. I shot a 63 at Kingsbarns on Tuesday.
“Hopefully I can keep on top of that and have a good week.
“But all my parts of my game are working well, it’s just that little bit of luck that you need.”
That practice round came in the company of legendary cricketers Shane Warne and Alan Lamb. Often in a pro-am, the professional can feel slowed down by their amateur partner who might not be taking the tournament as serious as the golfer playing to earn a living.
But Dyson said: “I enjoy it, especially when you play with sportsmen, they’re so competitive.
“Even in the practice round on Tuesday, Shane Warne was dying to win and I love that.
“The competitive edge is still there, even for the retired sportsmen in a sport that’s not even their sport.
“Especially someone like Shane Warne, the best spin bowler we’ll ever see.
“The key with the amateurs is to just try and have a fun time and try and enjoy it.
“I’ve been fortunate that for all 13 years it’s been going I’ve had some good partners.”
McIlroy hopes to win the Alfred Dunhill Links for his father, Gerry, who is his amateur partner this week.
“It’s a tournament that I have played well at but never been able to win,” said McIlroy.
“I finished third in 2007 (enough to gain his European Tour card in his second event as a professional), second in 2009 and second again in 2011.
“I’ve been close so it would be nice to win, especially as it’s my dad’s 55th birthday on Sunday. If we can make the cut in the team event and be able to walk around St Andrews on his birthday and me have a chance to win the tournament as well, it would be very special.”
Gallacher, who lost both of his matches at Gleneagles, revealed he would be undertaking a fitness regime from now on in his determination to make the team for Hazeltine in 2016.
“I think the Ryder Cup is one of those things; you just cannot wait to get back in to play it again,” said Gallacher.
“I think going forward it’s going to help my game as well. I learned so much from it that I can take on board.
“We are already putting plans in place to try to qualify for the next one.
“There’s a few mistakes I made this year so I’m going to try to peak at better times.
“By the time I got to Firestone and the US PGA, I was absolutely running on empty.”