Whiteford joins Ryder Cup heroes at Dunhill

KIRKCALDY;'Peter Whiteford preparing to embark on 2012 European Tour golf season'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON
KIRKCALDY;'Peter Whiteford preparing to embark on 2012 European Tour golf season'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON

PETER Whiteford feels ready to take on the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this week after taking tips from a past winner.

The Kirkcaldy golfer teed up for a practice round over the Old Course in St Andrews with fellow countryman Stephen Gallacher on Tuesday.

Bathgate-based Gallacher won the tournament in 2004, while Whiteford has failed to make the final cut in each of his three previous appearances.

But the Fifer hopes that his Old Course dress rehearsal with a past champion can be a spur to a successful week.

“It’s not a course I know particularly well,” Whiteford told the Press. “The more you play it the more you get to know it, and I’ve not played it all that often.

“Most of the bunkers are hidden off the tee, so places you think you want to hit to make birdies are actually bringing hidden bunkers into play.

“Stephen’s played it a lot more than I have so it was good to get tips from him on places to attack and angles to approach from. I learned a lot.”

The first three days of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which starts today (Thursday), are played over three separate courses - the Old Course, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie - with Sunday’s final round returning to the home of golf in St Andrews.

It will see three members of the victorious European Ryder Cup team play in Fife, namely Peter Hanson, Paul Lawrie, and the man who sunk the winning putt, Martin Kaymer.

The event is unique in that celebrities from the world of sport and entertainment team up with the pros in a team event.

Stars such as Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Hollywood icon Bill Murray, rock music legend Huey Lewis, former England footballer Jamie Redknapp and Paralympian Oscar Pistorious are all taking part.

Whiteford has been paired with businessman Stephen Marks and he is looking forward to playing alongside the French Connection chairman and chief executive.

However, the event is also a big one in terms of the Race to Dubai with $5m prize money at stake, and Whiteford is aiming to claim a chunk of it to boost his current order of merit ranking of 106th.

“For the amateurs it’s a great experience and also a bit of fun, but for us pros we’re there to make a living,” he said.

“It’s like they are coming into our office for the day, but they are always very respectful of that.

“I want them to have fun as well and I’ll always chat away to whoever I’m paired with, but there’s good money to be won so you need to stay focused.”

After a sparkling 2011 where he just missed out on a place in the Dubai World Championship, Whiteford’s form has dipped this season to the extent that with just a handful of events remaining, he has still to secure his playing rights for next season.

This season’s highlights were top 10 finishes at the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart and the Johnny Walker Championship at Gleneagles - and he would gladly settle for a hat-trick of Scottish top 10s this week.

“My game’s been in the doldrums for a long time, but I’m starting to get the swing back,” he said.

“I’ve missed two of the last three cuts by one shot, which is really frustrating considering the position I’m in, but at least the signs are there. My driving is improving, and the irons are getting back to where they should be again.

“At the moment it’s first things first - make sure I keep my card - then after that I can maybe look towards pushing on in the Race to Dubia. The home events have been my saviour this year so hopefully I can have another good result this week.”

Whiteford’s tee off times for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship are:

Thursday - Kingsbarns 9.55 am; Friday - St Andrews 9.00 a.m (10th hole); Saturday - Carnoustie 10.28 a.m (10th hole).