Dyson triumph offers major reward

Englishman denies McIlroy to win Dunhill Links and raise hopes of Masters place

Every professional, or indeed amateur, who wins on the Old Course of St Andrews talks of "fulfilling childhood dreams" and Simon Dyson was no different yesterday. But for the Yorkshireman, this three-stroke triumph over Rory McIlroy at the weather-delayed Dunhill Links should mean that his walk down the fantasy fairways is only just beginning.

First off, the £485,000 first prize has hurtled him in the top 10 of the money list and in with a chance of winning the near £1m "Race To Dubai" bonus at next month's season-ending spectacular. Then there is next year's Masters. He began the tournament in 92nd in the world rankings but this morning will wake up to discover he is No.46. If Dyson can maintain his position in the all-important top 50 until the end of the year he will secure a cherished berth at Augusta, not to mention the other three majors.

And then, perhaps most tantalisingly, there is next year's Ryder Cup. Dyson now holds a healthy advantage at the front of the field trying to qualify for Celtic Manor. At the Seve Trophy, the week before the Dunhill, this former Walker Cup player proved what a fine matchplay performer he is when winning his opening two fourballs, earning praise from Colin Montgomerie in the process. By the sound of it, Europe's captain would be happy to have Dyson on in his team.

"I didn't even think about what it could mean for the Ryder Cup and then it hit me when I holed the last putt," said Dyson. "It's now a massive goal of mine, although I'll let this sink in first. I'm buzzing. This 66 was the best round of my life – it just has to be. Darren Clarke has just said to me, 'Take your time and enjoy it – it does not get any better than winning at St Andrews'."

Dyson's exuberance was totally understandable and he can even be forgiven calling the glorified pro-am event "the fifth major". In fairness, this was a quality leaderboard and one which Dyson left trailing with a devastating burst of six birdies in the first seven holes. McIlroy led the pursuit most gallantly before bogeys at the 12th, 16th and 17th saw him surrender outright second. Indeed, had he not birdied the 18th then Oliver Wilson, courtesy of a 65, would have relegated him into third. As it is, the remarkable 20-year-old has leapfrogged Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer to the top of the money list. With his two nearest challengers both still sidelined with injuries, the Ulsterman is now the favourite to scoop the Dubai jackpot.

However, McIlroy will have to fend off Dyson and that will be no easy task. Having won his second Tour title at the Dutch Open in August – with a final-round 63 – and after enjoying two more top-10s in his next three outings, Dyson came into this event as Europe's form player. He left it with his reputation of being an under-achiever shattered once and for all.

By his own admission, in his early pro years Dyson spent too much time on the nightclubs and not enough time on the practice range. "I was 21, earning six figures and enjoying it," is how he sees it. But after a talking to from his father, John, who played for Middlesbrough and Arsenal (his uncle, Terry, played in the double-winning Spurs side), Dyson Jnr decided to rededicate himself to his profession.

A few years down the straight and narrow and the rewards are as obvious. "I've still got a lot of time left in my career – touch wood," he said. "I've settled down a lot, I'm the happiest away from the course that I've ever been. What more do you want?"

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