ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The final round of the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews had several compelling storylines as the weather-delayed event reached a conclusion on Monday. Could the overnight leader Luke Donald end a three-year winless streak? Could Rory McIlroy deliver a perfect 50th birthday present to his father Gerry, his amateur partner in this prestigious pro-am tournament? Could Darren Clarke signal a return to the big-time with a victory?
In the end, none of those storylines came to pass. Monday in St. Andrews was all about Simon Dyson, a little-known 31-year-old Englishman who posted a final round 66 to finish at 20 under par, three shots ahead of McIlroy and Ollie Wilson. The win — Dyson’s fourth on the European Tour — earned him $800,000. It was his second victory in six weeks and moves him into the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time. He is also now top of the European Ryder Cup points table, almost a year ahead of the matches in Wales.
“That was the best round of my life,” Dyson said afterward. “How could it not be? I’ve probably got as much confidence as I’ve ever had at the minute. This is like our fifth major, a massive tournament at the home of golf, and I’ve shot a 66 to win it. My parents always come up for the week but couldn’t make it this year. They’re never coming back!”
Donald slipped to a final round 73 and a tie for seventh with Clarke, who could only muster a 71. Padraig Harrington also shot a final day 66 to finish in a tie for 26th place. Soren Hansen of Denmark and his amateur partner Kieran McManus, won the team portion of the event, finishing 44 under par for a five-stroke win.
Dyson’s final round included six birdies in the first seven holes on the way to a front nine 30. It was a welcome change for Dyson at the Old Course. Like so many golfers, he has says he has grown to love the ancient links after years of struggling to discover its secrets. “I’ve never shot the lights out here before,” he said. “I’ve played it about 35 times and I’ve always been a few shots either side of par.”
Dyson hails from good sporting stock. His grandfather was a jockey, while his father and uncle both played soccer — his father Bob for Arsenal, his uncle Terry for the legendary Tottenham Hotspurs team of 1961. Dyson seemed to be destined for a career in football too. He was signed to York City before deciding to focus on golf. Earlier this week, the eventual champion went largely unnoticed as he sat quietly sipping a beer and watching soccer in a St. Andrews bar. Now in his tenth season as a pro, Dyson admits his journey hasn’t been easy. As an amateur he played alongside Paul Casey and Luke Donald in
the 1999 Walker Cup team that defeated the USA, but as a pro he was known to enjoy the party life on Tour. He credits his newfound focus to moving in with his girlfriend and buying a puppy. “I could have done better but I don’t regret one thing I’ve done,” he said. “I enjoyed life as a kid.”