Matt Fitzpatrick left it until the very last shot of the day to take over the lead of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. His birdie, birdie finish for a brilliant 64 at Kingsbarns gave him a one-shot advantage over Scotland’s Grant Forrest and Spain’s Nacho Elvira.
With mum Sue getting a front row seat as his partner in the Team Championship, the 2022 US Open champion and Ryder Cup star delivered a remorseless, almost faultless display of nine birdies and just one bogey for the best round of the day.
For a while Forrest left the Scottish galleries hoping that for the first time since 2005 they might have a home-grown winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links to cheer on Sunday, but despite an impressive 67 on the Old Course to share the lead on 12-under-par with Elvira for a time, they were soon overtaken by Fitzpatrick.
In his 66, Elvira produced one of the shots of the day with an eagle on the 18th hole at St Andrews. He drove the green to within a few feet of the pin and sank the putt.
Now Fitzpatrick plays his third round at St Andrews, while Forrest and Elvira face the far more intimidating visit to Carnoustie. He is as keen to win the Team Championship as the Individual Pro’s title.
Fitzpatrick said: “It was a really enjoyable day. We both like the golf course, Kingsbarns. Very relaxed atmosphere, compared to Carnoustie, you can coast a little bit more.
“I do like Kingsbarns of the three courses. I just think that's the most enjoyable with the views, the hole designs. I always prefer getting Carnoustie out of the way, given how far it is from where I’m staying too. I get extra time in bed.
Fitzpatrick is coming back after an incredible Ryder Cup week and he is excited about the possibility of another high profile triumph.
“It would be great. I think I said it last year, I just want to make the cut with Mum and do well for the team and you never know what can happen.”
The Championship is a celebration of Links golf, played over the Old Course St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. With a prize fund of US$5 million, the Alfred Dunhill Links incorporates two separate competitions - an individual professional tournament for the world's leading golfers and the Team Championship in which the professionals are paired with amateur golfers which creates a unique atmosphere.
Playing with French professional Julien Guerrier, Stephane Connery took the lead in the Team Championship after a betterball 60 in the second round on the Old Course at St Andrews.
Son of the great actor Sir Sean Connery and Micheline Roquebrune, a celebrated painter, he is a leading expert in Impressionist and 20th century art, with his own business, and has completed several of the highest value private transactions on the international art market.
Stephane’s performance delighted him. He has always said: “The Old Course was like a cathedral for my father.”
They finished on 23-under-par, just one shot ahead of the formidable Fitzpatrick family partnership of Matt and mum Sue, who had a betterball score of 14-under-par at Kingsbarns.
In the top 20 are defending champions Callum Shinkwin and Alex Aquavella, on 18-under-par, Matthew Southgate and Lord Ian Botham, on 16-under-par, and the very popular pairing of David Howell and Michael Vaughan, also on 16-under.
There has been a special welcome at St Andrews this week for Howell, who is celebrating the tenth anniversary of his 2013 Alfred Dunhill Links victory, and the fact that he is making his 722nd record appearance in European Tour / DP World Tour events, surpassing Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Howell said: “It’s not something you set out to break of course. There’s only a few of us that have played anywhere near this number. But it’s a nice thing to have done for sure.”
The Alfred Dunhill Links Foundation is the official Foundation of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. The Foundation supports several local and international charities including its commitment to developing young amateur golfers in Scotland and South Africa, education through the support of the University of St Andrews and Robert T Jones Memorial Trust, and the support of the St Andrews Pilgrim Foundation SCIO, which refurbishes and preserves historical monuments in the town of St Andrews.