Plus three is not enough for Links Trophy

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Graced over the years by the likes of Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington and, most recently, Rory McIlroy, the quality on display in the St Andrews Links Trophy over the next three days is reflected by a handful of plus-three handicappers having missed out in the ballot.

Surely a rare occurrence anywhere in the world, it’s a measure of how popular this particular event has become since its launch 24 years ago, with the cream of Great Britain & Ireland’s amateurs being joined on this occasion by challengers from Australia, Italy, South Africa, France, Slovenia, Poland, Portugal, UAE, Sweden and Iceland.

“We’re delighted to welcome such a great field,” said John Grant, director of golf for St Andrews Links Trust, which runs the 72-hole stroke-play tournament that starts today over the Jubilee Course then moves thereafter to the Old Course. “The courses are in fantastic condition and, with some great weather forecast in the next few days, we can look forward to a great weekend of golf.”

Australian Brady Watt, the world No 2, heads a field that also includes Bamburgh Castle’s Garrick Porteous, who is bidding to complete a notable double north of the Border after his impressive victory in the Scottish Open Stroke-Play Championshio at Southerness last Sunday.

Amongst those hoping to follow in the spikemarks of 12 past Scottish winners are Ewan Scott and Ben Kinsley, two products of the St Andrews Links Junior Golf Association, as well as fellow Fifer Brian Soutar, who quit the game for a spell over the winter after returning to work as a welding inspector in Norway but is now back playing again.

“I’ve now got a project manager’s job back in Leven and it’s a new challenge,” said the 2012 South African Amateur champion. “I can play a lot more golf now but I’m a little rusty. I just need to get practising to get myself more competitive.

“I’ve not really got any great expectations this weekend. I’ll just go out and enjoy it but, don’t get me wrong, I think I can do alright. It’s just I’ve usually come into this event with a bit of form and now I’ve got to find a bit of form.”

England’s Tom Lewis took the title two years ago, while Dutchman Daan Huizing finished 14 shots clear of the field in 2012 with a 23-under total of 264.