Even if Sergio Garcia misses every cut from now until the end of the year and doesn’t earn another penny 2017 will be the best of his career to date. It is the year he finally won a major championship. He was the US Masters champion in April and he is now a leading contender for the British version this week. There is no tournament on the US PGA Tour but the President’s Cup brings together the best players from the US and the rest of the world other than Europe.
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The British Masters is backed by Sky Sports and a leading British player puts his name to the event each year. Lee Westwood is that player this week and the tournament is being played at Close House in the north east of England. The Championship Lee Westwood Colt Course is a par 71 track measuring 6,813 yards which is very short my modern standards. The layout puts a premium on accuracy over distance. Westwood has a game suited to his own course.
Rory McIlroy added the event to his schedule after a poor FedEx Cup series in the States which meant he didn’t qualify for the Tour Championship. He is one of nine players from the top 20 in the Race to Dubai standings playing this week. McIlroy is taking an extended break from the game and would like to end the season on a positive note. He is one of the best drivers in the world but maybe not totally focused this week ahead of his rest and absence from the sport.
Westwood will have plenty of off-course distractions this week and getting on to the golf course may prove to be a good break. He could either be weighed down by his commitments or get some respite while playing. However, players rarely win or contend in events they promote and other players are preferred. Alex Noren is 14th in the world rankings and won the BMW Championship in Britain earlier this season. He has a game suited to the host course so has a good chance of making the payout places. However, Garcia has most in his favour this week
The player formerly known as El Nino excels on courses that require accuracy from the tees and fairways. He is one of the best iron players in the world and a top 10 player in Europe for greens hit. On such a relatively short track with demanding targets it will be more about bogey avoidance than converting birdies. Garcia’s slightly flawed putting will not be put under serious pressure this week.
Tommy Fleetwood leads the Race to Dubai and has almost 1 million euro in hand over Garcia in second place. Fleetwood is absent this week as are Jon Rahm and Rafa Cabrera-Bello in third and fourth place. Noren is fifth in the current standings and would move up a place with a win this week. Fleetwood is safe at the top but Garcia can eat into his lead by winning the 2017 British Masters.
Back next Thursday.