The British Masters is sponsored by Sky Sports and hosted by Justin Rose so it will be a great tournament at Walton Heath. Matt Wallace and Matthew Fitzpatrick might want to make a statement while three Ryder Cup colleagues have accepted Rose’s invitation to appear this week. However, there could be life in one of the old dogs and Lee Westwood can bring back some memories by winning for the 24th time on the European tour and clinch his 43rd professional title.
Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari are in the field and it would really be something if they challenged against each other over the weekend. They combined to win four points from four matches in the Ryder Cup. They became the first European pairing to win all four of their matches in the four balls and foursomes. Molinari is now the only European to go 5-0 in the Ryder Cup and he is the current Open champion. The Italian leads the Race to Dubai but mental letdown could be an issue.
The British Masters returned to the European Tour schedule in 2015 with the backing of Sky Sports. One of the innovations was to designate a tournament host. Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Westwood have performed the duty but Rose is the highest ranked player to host the week. He won the FedEx Cup and $10 million dollar bonus on the PGA Tour and is currently only behind Dustin Johnson in the world rankings. Duties off the course will keep Rose busy so winning this event looks beyond him.
Paul Dunne is the defending champion but bookmakers are suggesting he won’t win again. He has not had a great season and not looked like adding to his first win on the European Tour. However, he did win the Golf Sixes tournament in May but that wasn’t a regular individual 72 hole stroke play tournament. Dunne has positive mental associations with the event and his nine under par round of 61 clinched the title last season when Rory McIlroy was in contention.
Rose has a say in the course and venue and the three previous hosts chose layouts close to their heart which one part of the benefits of hosting the British Masters. It will never have the prestige of the US equivalent but Sky make it a special week with a number of unique features. Walton Heath has two demanding heath land courses and it will take a good all round game for decent scoring this week. The Old Course is being used with a par of 72 over 7.394 yards which is about average in distance.
Thomas Bjorn made the right calls with his wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup. He had to take into account the five rookies who qualified by right so he went for experience. His four picks all contributed points (as did each member of the team) but also brought a wealth of Ryder Cup experience to the environment. Jim Furyk’s picks gave very little so Bjorn made the right choices. Wallace and Fitzpatrick were in the running for a pick so may feel slightly aggrieved they didn’t get the call. Winning the British Masters would be compensation and both players are in good form.
Westwood is a former world number one and multiple winner in Europe and the rest of the world. It would be churlish to say he has underachieved because he has not won a major. Westwood has finished in the top three in all four majors and has won over €34 million in prize money in Europe and more than $19 million on the PGA Tour. He won the English Open in 1998 so it would be appropriate if Westwood won a second British Masters 20 years after his first win on home soil.