Ernie Els and Retief Goosen are among a host of notable names competing at the dunhill links championship in St. Andrews, Scotland (TGC - Thurs., 8:30 a.m ET). The field also includes world No. 1 Vijay Singh, Adam Scott and 10 European Ryder Cup team members. Past major winners Fred Couples, Ben Curtis, Rich Beem, Steve Elkington and Jose Maria Olazabal are also in attendance.
Els leads Goosen by 1,199,243 euros (roughly $1.5 million) on the tours Order of Merit, thanks to his victory last week in the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship.
Els is trying to accomplish what Goosen has already done, winning back-to-back money titles in Europe. Goosen did so in 2001 and 2002, while Els topped the list last year.
In order to deny his countryman a repeat monetary victory, Goosen is going to have to collect a few more tournament victories of his own. Goosen will need to perform exceptionally well ' and hope Els does not ' in not only this weeks event, but also next weeks HSBC World Match Play Championship (where Els is the defending champion).
These may be his final two weeks to overtake Els, as the season-ending Volvo Masters is contested the same week as the PGA Tours Chrysler Championship, where Goosen is the defending champion.
Lee Westwood was the last non-South African to top the money list. He ended Colin Montgomeries seven-year reign in 2000. He then suffered a well-publicized tailspin before recovering last year with wins at the BMW International Open and in this event.
Westwood held off a hard-charging Els in the final round. Els fired an 8-under 64 that Sunday, but fell one-stroke shy of the Englishman, who had a 67 to win with a 21-under-par 267 total.
The win was the 16th of his career on tour and his most recent to date.
This is the fourth playing of the dunhill links championship. Paul Lawrie won the inaugural tournament in 2001, and Padraig Harrington prevailed in a playoff in 02.
The tournament is contested over three venerable links venues. Players compete on the Old Course at St. Andrews, the Championship Course at Carnoustie and the Kingsbarn Golf Links. They will play each course once over the first three days, before a 54-hole cut is made. The remaining 70 players and ties play the Old Course in the final round.
There are only three full-field events, including this one, remaining on the 2004 European Tour calendar before the Volvo Masters, in which the top 60 players on the money list qualify.
Next weeks HSBC World Match Play Championship is an unofficial event; though the money earned does count towards the Order of Merit.