Northern Irishman Michael Hoey held off spirited charges from countrymen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell to capture his third ever European Tour title – and second win in 2011 – at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Hoey, who also captured the Madeira Islands Open earlier in the season had shot three successive rounds of 66 at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns to take a narrow lead over the field when they returned to St. Andrews Old Course for the final round, and while he couldn’t repeat the 66 for a fourth time, his 68 – which saw three birdies in the final four holes – was good enough to secure a two stroke margin of victory.
But it was nervous times for Hoey who had started three shots ahead of McDowell and five in front of McIlroy, as the US Open champion staged an early charge which saw a birdie at the second hole, and a holed second shot at the third for an eagle two. With three more birdies on the 6th, 7th and 9th holes, McIlroy edged in front after Hoey had suffered a second bogey of the day, but Hoey battled back to level the score with birdies of his own at the 8th and 9th.
Graeme McDowell, playing with Hoey was also making headway on the lead; birdies at the 3rd, 4th and 9th holes saw the 2010 Ryder Cup hero overtake Hoey and share the lead with McIlroy before Hoey’s back-to-birdies at the 8th and 9th saw the trio go into the turn level.
The current US Open champion moved into the lead again with a birdie at the 11th, but that was to be McIlroy’s last, as the birdies dried up. But after Hoey missed a 4 footer for birdie at the 14th, it seemed like the title was in the balance with McIlroy still holding a slender 1-shot advantage heading into the final four holes.
And like McIlroy, McDowell saw the birdies dry up despite another gain at the 12th to share the lead with McIlroy. Hoey levelled and them moved into the lead with birdies on the 15th and 16th holes to, build a one-shot lead. A bogey at the infamous Road Hole spelled the end for McDowell, dropping three back, and when Hoey birdied the last it was all over, and Hoey collected a winner’s cheque of €599,149.
In the end Hoey came home two shots clear of McIlroy, with McDowell a further shot behind in third.
Local player George Murray, who hails from nearby Anstruther, partnered world number one Luke Donald in the final round and produced an error-free round of 67 to share third with McDowell, while Tommy Fleetwood carded 68 to share fifth with former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Warren.
Another former Open champion, Padraig Harrington, finished alone in eighth place after a 69 for 16-under par, while Luke Donald again made the top-10, going round in 70 to share ninth with seven players, including US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and fellow Ryder Cup man Peter Hanson.